He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’”
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were always looking for a way to discredit Him and His disciples. When the leaders noticed that some of Jesus’ followers were eating without going through the ritual of ceremonial washing, they cried foul. “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?” they asked.
Jesus answered the leaders by applying a passage from Isaiah. He noted that they were honoring God with their lips but not with their hearts. They followed “merely human rules” instead of God’s instruction. Their misguided worship was worthless.
Legalism is a religion of the hands absent the heart. It adheres to the law without adoration of the Lord. It is a religion that twists God’s commands into a set of human rules. It says the right words but is far from real worship. Legalism impresses people but never impresses God.
Father, shine Your light on any area of my life that carries even a hint of legalism. Help me be clean on the inside, washed and renewed by the work of Jesus. Keep me free from a hands-without-heart religion. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
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