Have you ever been lectured by someone? That wasn’t a teacher? That wasn’t your parent? That was a Christian? Trying to convert you?
Yeah, so one time I traveled down into D.C. to meet a friend. He didn’t care what I had to say. He didn’t care about the person I was trying to help. He seemed to want another notch in his religious belt. This is how many people perceive followers of Jesus. And why wouldn’t they if this is their only experience with followers of Jesus. But lets see if Jesus himself is like that? Does he care about other people? Is he just interested in another notch in his religious belt?
Here’s a story about Jesus:
Mark 3:1 Another time he went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. 2 Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. 3 Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, "Stand up in front of everyone." 4 Then Jesus asked them, "Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?" But they remained silent. 5 He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. 6 Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.
Who knows what runescape is? It’s a free online multiplayer game where you complete quests and get items and try to advance your character to new levels so that you can compete with more skilled people.
You know some people treat religion like a game. They want to level up in following Jesus, they want to do the tougher tasks so that they can get more points, more status, hang out with holier people. They want to look down on the “newbs” and the “have-nots.” But following Jesus isn’t at all like that.
That’s what the Pharisees, the religious conservatives, were doing in this passage. They were using their religion to congratulate themselves and to look down on others.
Am I using religion to put others down and congratulate myself? I want to talk to the most religious people in here. In middle school, I was lame. I wasn’t really smart, I wasn’t really funny, I wasn’t really good-looking, I wasn’t really rich, I wasn’t really talented at anything. So it’s understandable in high school that I turned to religion for my identity. And especially in college, I identified myself as the guy who knew-better-than-you. And yet, as I learned about Jesus, I started to learn that he cared about those people that I was putting down. He wasn’t interested in righteousness as a way to have moral authority over other people. He wasn’t interested in a righteousness at other’s expense. He was interested in a righteousness that built others up instead of tearing them down.