“Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:26-27
God does not put a high value on religious activity. James 1:27 tells us that there is such a thing as pure religion that pleases God, but surprisingly, the Bible does not usually present religious activity as pure religion. James points out that true spirituality in the eyes of God is to make a difference in the lives of the orphans, and widows in their troubles, and to refuse to be corrupted by the world’s values.
God’s goal is not to create people who are religious. His goal is to bring men and women into a relationship with Himself! —Robert Heidler, Freedom From a Religious Spirit
Let’s look at an example of how religious activity was viewed in the Prophet’s Malachi’s day. The people were proud of their religiosity. They assumed that their religious rituals were pleasing to God, but God indicated He was looking for something more. “Oh, that there were even one among you [whose duty it is to minister to Me] who would shut the gates, so that you would not kindle fire on My altar uselessly [with an empty, worthless pretense]! I am not pleased with you,” says the Lord of hosts, “nor will I accept an offering from your hand.” Malachi 1:10 AMPC
God was not pleased with their worship. He felt they were playing at religion and should just shut the door because their worship was useless. God is not looking for outward forms of religion. He would prefer that someone locks the church doors than perpetuate lifeless forms of religion!
Let’s take a look at what Jesus thinks about religion. The Pharisees were very fine people. Pillars of society, yet Jesus said you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
The King James Version translates it “for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.” Pretty strong words for those who would considered pillars of society.
They studied the Bible diligently, and they took the lead in defending what was good, righteous and moral. They always went to religious services and made a point of obeying God’s laws. So what was the issue? The Pharisees didn’t practice what they preached. In verse 1 Jesus told the people that the religious scholars and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ throne as authorized interpreters of the law. He also told them to follow what they teach, but don’t do what they do, for they tell you one thing and do another. He said everything they do is done for show and to be noticed by others. “They want to be seen as holy, so they wear oversized prayer boxes on their arms and foreheads with Scriptures inside, and wear extra-long tassels on their outer garments.They crave the seats of highest honor at banquets and in their meeting places. 7 And how they love to be admired by men with their titles of respect, aspiring to be recognized in public and have others call them ‘Reverend.’ –Matthew 23:5-7 TPT
Jesus says that we only have one Master, and that we are all called to be brothers and sisters in Christ. He also said the greatest among you will be the one who always serves others from the heart. He instructed them to remember this, “If you have a lofty opinion of yourself and seek to be honored, you will be humbled. But if you have a modest opinion of yourself and choose to humble yourself, you will be honored.”
Jesus reserved the harshest condemnation for the Pharisees. He goes on to pronounce seven woes: https://afrancinegreen.com/2019/10/14/the-church-awakening-warnings-we-dare-not-continue-to-ignore-part-2/
What was Jesus problem with the Pharisees. They took God’s truth truth and turned it into a religious system. They substituted the reality of a relationship with God into a system focused on outward appearances.
The religious system must be uprooted so that we can fulfill God’s purposes in the earth.
May the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. –Philippians 4:7
Note: All Scriptures are taken from the New International Version (NIV) unless otherwise noted.