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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Toothpaste Test

I've been preaching on Matthew 23, highlighting the differences between spirituality that pleases God and toxic religion (the whole chapter is a diatribe by Jesus against religiosity gone bad).

One of the main differences: When people worry about the final Judgment and how God will evaluate their lives and whether He will accept them into heaven, they respond either by trying to justify themselves, or by relying on the justification provided by Jesus Christ on their behalf.

Trying to justify ourselves is always a tenuous position so those who do so are always looking for external supports for their fragile peace of mind. Since we can't see God, we look to other humans and how they evaluate us. The result of all of this is that we end up performing our "religious duties" for the sake of man's approval rather than God's.

This leads to a focus on externals (rather than on the heart, which only God sees) and on trivial and superficial stuff (the visible) rather than on the depths (invisible).

So which do you focus on? Here's a test. It's fallible, but revealing nonetheless:

Look at your last toothpaste purchase. Of the 3 billion varieties on the shelf, did you buy one whose label's claims focus on how it will make your teeth look (whiter!) or on how effective it is against tartar and plaque and gum disease? Which was more important: the facade or the foundation?

Now the real test: Do you make other choices in your life the same way you choose toothpaste? And, most importantly, do you make choices about your spiritual life based on what people can see or on what only your Heavenly Spiritual Hygenist can see?

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