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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

On Your Mark by Dr. George O. Wood


Religious Fakes

April 21, 2013

As he taught, Jesus said, “Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted in the marketplaces, and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely. (Mark 12:38-40, NIV)

Phony religious leaders may fool their followers, but they don’t fool Jesus. He tells us how to spot them in any generation by giving six characteristics of their behavior and attitude.

First — attire to attract attention. In the case of Jesus’ day, it may be “flowing robes.” In our day it may be a shirt hanging outside of blue jeans to show the congregation how “hip” the pastor is. Nothing is wrong with flowing robes, a shirt hanging out, or a three-piece suit and tie. The issue is the intent of the wearer. Is it to impress others of one’s persona? Is there puff or substance? Is the purpose to convey a spiritual mystique about the speaker, or develop a hunger for God in those who listen?

Second — desire for recognition. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day loved to be “greeted in the marketplaces.” This admonition from Jesus to watch out for them is not meant to be a restraint on friendliness. Instead, it’s an indictment against religious leaders who seek to grab attention, who delight in others fawning over them and according them an importance not merited. It warns followers of Jesus who serve in leadership roles not to think of themselves more highly than they ought, to not indulge in self-congratulation and self-promotion. Friendliness should be genuine and not an artifice to gain favor from others.

Third — religion as a prop. The teachers of the Law loved “the best seats in the synagogue.” In other words, they used religion to enhance their own personal recognition by others. The “church” was a place to show off. It was simply the set on which their own drama unfolded, rather than the stage from which true worship to God took place. Christian leaders today are not immune to this temptation to be seen by others rather than to point toward the unseen God. Even worship leaders at their instruments and microphones to lead the congregation in worship may instead only be a performing band that is enamored with its own talent and showmanship.

Fourth — focus of attention. Jesus noted that the teachers of the Law not only used religion as a prop, but also carried their thirst for attention into the secular arena, loving the “places of honor at banquets.” Jesus sees life differently. He desires His leaders to serve rather than be served, to put to death the desire for recognition and applause.

Fifth — unethical and crooked behavior. How many widows have emptied their wallets into some prominent preacher’s personal bank account? Crooked religious leaders in any generation prey on the vulnerable and gullible. That’s why Jesus says they “devour widows’ houses.”

Finally — spiritual pretense. Jesus says the fake religious leaders mask their hypocrisy by making a show of lengthy prayers. But they don’t fool Jesus.

Jesus cuts right to the heart of the matter. His critics were frauds, and He’s not afraid to call them that. Mark’s account is the abridged version — read Matthew 23 for the full denunciation by Jesus of spiritual fakes, of persons who use religion to advance themselves.

A prayer of response
Lord Jesus, may I be pure in heart so that what I present to others about myself is really who I am.

DR. GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.



On Your Mark

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