Daily Devotion: When “Devotion” Leads to Sin

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Bible Readings for Saturday February 12th, 2011 – The 6th Week of Epiphany

*Click on each bible passage to expand the text.

Psalm 119:1-8

Deuteronomy 30:1-9a

Matthew 15:1-9

  • You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently. – Psalm 119:4
  • Moreover, the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live. – Deuteronomy 30:6
  • “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.” – Matthew 15:8-9

To sin is to “miss the mark“. The bible is filled from cover to cover with examples of people who “miss the mark”, both inadvertently and purposefully.

In today’s Gospel passage from Matthew, Jesus deftly describes how a devout believer, with even the best of intentions can swing so very wide of “the mark”.

Matthew 15

4. For God said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.’

This is “the mark”, the goal, the commandment: always love and respect your father and mother, or die. Seems simple enough. (A bit harsh, in classic biblical prose, but brutally straightforward nonetheless).

We are to act out of love, forgiveness and compassion towards our parents foremost, before all others. Our parents are often our first opportunity to practice forgiveness, as our parents are not immune to “missing the mark”, sometimes in the most egregious fashion! The penalty for neglecting this commandment and practice is death. I believe this is clearly a spiritual death, because if your can’t find it in your heart to love your own parents, warts and all, and forgive their transgressions, then you are already in a spiritual death-bed.

Matthew 15

5. But you say that whoever tells father or mother, ‘Whatever support you might have had from me is given to God,’ then that person need not honor the father.
6. So, for the sake of your tradition, you make void the word of God.

In other words, “I’d love to help you out Mom and Dad, but you see, I’ve already pledged so much to the church (or this non-profit, or this arts foundation, etc), I just can’t afford to give any more. See, Mom and Dad, I’m what’s known as a ‘Really Giving and Devout Person‘ and if I give enough to these folks here, they give me awards and recognition which confirm my status as a ‘Really Giving and Devout Person’. ”

It’s a bit confusing, becuase Jesus wants us to be self-less and giving people. Right? So why is this kind of giving still “missing the mark”?

Because there is still a lot of “self” involved in this example. Giving to Mom and Dad (or any close family or friend) involves no public recognition or gain. In the case of the Pharisees, a korban gift was a gift to honor God, and a public display that the giver was in fact, devout.

However, when the action/reward feedback loop is much smaller and private (like helping out our family) then our willingness and instinct to give can sometimes be a bit… abated.

Jesus wants us to live our lives selflessly, without thought of our own reward, recognition, or gain. And God clearly teaches that an instantly clear and outward sign of how “into yourself” you really are is your willingness to help those closest to you when there is no chance of gain or reward. When you are more willing to give to God than to your own kin, then your life is clearly “missing the mark”.

God doesn’t want devotion to God. God wants devotion to each other, and through that compassion we are actively devout to God’s word, and “hitting the mark”.

Matthew 22

37. He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’
38. This is the greatest and first commandment.
39. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
40. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

On these two commandments hang ALL the law and the prophets.

If I were destitute, you bet I would want my parents to help me before they gave to God. Well, then I should love them likewise.

Do you yet see how the interpretation of any law or commandment without the filter of The Greatest Commandment is how we can easily begin teaching “human precepts as doctrines”?

Trig Bundgaard About Trig Bundgaard

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Romans 5
"18. Therefore just as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man's act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all.
19. For just as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous."

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