Beware of being religious!

Matthew 12:9-14 tells the story of Jesus going to the synagogue one Sabbath day. It’s the equivalent of our going to church on a Sunday morning. When Jesus arrives there is a crowd centred around a helpless man. He is helpless because his hand is withered, and that puts him at the bottom of the heap, unable to work in meaningful way, unable to provide, and despised.

Jesus’ immediate response is to liken this poor man to a sheep in trouble and himself to the shepherd who, of course will help the helpless sheep. And with that he heals the man! The Pharisees’ response is to conspire to destroy Jesus!

Beware of being religious! The Pharisees were the respectable face of religion in Jesus’ day. They would have been the ones in the suits, with large, obviously read Bibles, the smart, well to do pillars of society that stood around in lobbies and hob nobbed with the professional church leaders, that ran things; they would have been, on the surface, the pinnacle of church life. People looked up to them. Sadly, they looked down on people!

The man with the withered hand was not respectable, he was not looked up to, he was looked down on and despised by the religious synagogue worshippers.

Our response to good done by others or received by others is very telling. If, like the Pharisees, we resent the good done in Christ by others for others then we need to re-evaluate our faith. As Jesus pointed out in the parable of the moneylender in Luke 7:47, those who are forgiven little love little. The most genuine faith in and love for God is generally found in those who have been lifted from sin, not those who come from a religious background.

The irony is that we are all forgiven much – many of us just fail to see it! And that in itself is a grievous sin!

So, we should see ourselves in the helpless man and not in the Pharisee. We should rejoice to see others lifted, healed, restored, forgiven, and rejoice to see other believers being the people God uses to bring about that restoration. Jealousy of those who are doing good or who have received good has no place in the Kingdom of Heaven!

Don’t look down on the rough and ready, the needy, the less cultured or educated – that is the religion of the Pharisees. Don’t ever forget that you, personally, have been forgiven much, and love much in return. Love God, love Jesus, love Jesus’ people.

About 

My name is Peter Holloway and having lived in Southport, England for 20 years, followed by a couple of years back in Northern Ireland I’m now working as an IT Manager in West Sussex. I was born in Northern Ireland and raised in the suburbs of Belfast just off the Saintfield Road, attended Cairnshill Primary School and Annadale Grammar School. I studied for a London University BD at Belfast Bible College.