Text: Luke 20:45-21:4 | Listen to Message
The Lie of Religion
After being questioned by the religious leaders of the time, Jesus publicly rebukes the scribes. The Scribes were religious scholars who interpreted the Bible, and their interpretations impacted not only the religious teachings of the time, but also the legal system. They were in charge of arbitrating wills, legal contracts, and estate planning.
Instead of studying God’s Word and applying it to their own lives, they built their own false religion, which was focused and based on themselves. This religion and all man-made religions are a collection of self-propelled outward actions that you do to try and gain favor with god or with other people. The scribes specifically did this when they made their robes long, made long prayers for show, all the while they were exploiting widows (20:47).
They did all of these activities to promote themselves and look good in front of others. In the same way, religion lies to us and says that we need to do, or avoid, certain activities to gain approval with God. It’s the lie that says we need to go to church in order for God to love us. It is the lie that says we can earn God’s love by following all of the rules.
All of these actions are motivated by and centered around the self. It may be doing the right outward actions (like praying), but in reality it’s all for self promotion. We struggle to self-will ourselves to try harder in the hopes that our actions will gain us the approval of others and make us right with God.
At the end of the day, our own self efforts will never be enough. It will never make us right with God. Isaiah 64:6 says that “all of our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” Compared to the holiness that God requires, even the good things that we do fall miserably short.
Jesus then looks up and sees a poor widow giving all of the money she had left. By contrast, she is not showing her piety by wearing long robes, she is dressed as a widow, identifying herself as one that is mourning. She is not stealing from others to get more income, she is giving her money to God. Jesus declares that where your money is, there your heart will also be (Matthew 6:2). By this standard, we see this widow’s heart, her faith is not in herself, but in God. She gave all that she had and fully trusted on God.
Religion would say that you and I need to try harder to have this kind of faith. “Just try harder!” it would scream. Jesus instead invites us to come to Him and he will help you with faith. He will provide for you. By Jesus’ death on the cross, He freely gives us hope, identity, and a right standing with God. Instead of doing things to look good in front of others, we need to come to Jesus with a humble heart and rely on His perfect life for our right standing with God. We need to constantly remind ourselves and others that we do not need to earn God’s love, but we are fully loved and accepted by God because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.