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Avoiding Hypocrisy in Our Religious Activities
[These passages show the contrast between the way hypocrites perform religious activities and the way God requires them to be performed. As always, you should read the context, in order to gain a better understanding of what these passages are saying.]
Performing religious activities is not the same as having love for God. Anyone - including hypocrites - can perform religious activities. It is only when the love for God is already present - demonstrated by a person's obedience to God, his purity in life (including his motives), and the love he has for his neighbor - that the religious activities can become pleasing to God.
The Basic Principle
[Though the word "hypocrite" is not found in this introductory verse, the verse focuses on the motivating principle that often guides hypocrites in the way they do things. The three examples given below are typical, and represent everything that might fall into the category of "religious activity."]
Note that the "good deeds" aren't "good," if done for the wrong reason!
God promises to reward us. But getting a reward is not our motive. Rather, it is out of love (for both God and neighbor) that we want to do these things.
When Helping the Needy
This passage contains a wealth of other information about praying:
- Our prayers shouldn't be characterized by repetitious babbling, like the pagans do - v. 7-8.
- We are given a suggested model that we can use as a pattern for how we pray (often called the "Lord 's Prayer") - v. 9-13.
- We are warned that we cannot have a proper relationship with God, unless we are willing to have a proper relationship with other people - especially in the area of forgiveness - v. 14-15.
This refers to abstaining from food, and was often done during an extended time of prayer, or as an expression of repentance and humility, etc. (It doesn't mean "going on a diet"!)
This concludes our study on the topic of "hypocrisy and sincerity."
However, it does not conclude our putting to practice what we have learned. For us who are not hypocrites, practicing what we learned is a life-long endeavor!
Dennis Hinks © 2007
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