Pride and Religious People

This weekend I'm delivering a message on Pride, the first of the 7 Deadly Sins we'll be looking at in our Break the Cycle series.  I won't be able to convey in a single message all I've learned about pride in preparing for the message, but one of the things I've discovered is that religious observance and the religious context are some of the most fertile ground for pride.  That's a bit ironic, as religious observance should make one humble.

I've also been looking at Matthew 23 lately.  In that chapter, Jesus issues seven "Woes" or warnings to the teachers of the law and the Pharisees.  I find the list is fascinating because Jesus doesn't just appear to be addressing a group of very devout people 2000 years ago, but he appears to be railing against some timeless flaws that religion can bring to anyone.

I know plenty of Christians who disdain the idea that they are "religious".  Indeed, they don't like the term "religious", but I would say that it's a helpful designation.  It's the right way to talk about adhering to rules and making judgments against others based on a religious culture.   I would summarize them like this:
  1. Woe to you because you deny people entrance into God's kingdom.   
  2. Woe to you because you teach people to be worse than you already are.
  3. Woe to you because you teach people religious games and make them miss the point.
  4. Woe to you because you find ways to keep the rules while ignoring more significant issues that God cares about more.
  5. Woe to you because you are externally fit, but you have neglected your true inward character.
  6. Woe to you because you are ceremonially clean, but your heart is filthy.
  7. Woe to you because you think you are different than those who came before you when, in reality, you're their spitting image.
Today I'm praying I won't stumble into these very same mistakes that the teachers of the law and the Pharisees made.  Maybe it would be good idea for you to take a look at Matthew 23 as well.

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