What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness (Mark 7:20-22).
Lip-worship is as common in our day as it was
when Jesus visited this world.
People not only respect the traditions of the past—
as they ought to—
but they ordinarily honor them
and desperately clutch at them
like a drowning man latching on to floating debris.
They wear their religion—put on their religion—
the way a person might put on a coat.
As the prophets persistently enunciated,
this is abominable to God.
Hymn-singing, the making of prayers,
the confessing of creeds
the symbols and rituals and religious exercises
that are an important part of our churches,
are valid and desirable—
and they are pleasing to God.
But He looks deeper into the heart of man and woman,
into his or her real desires and motivations,
into the honest beliefs and intentions
of His human creatures,
He looks for faith.
The spirit of God breaks through the visible
and the apparent, the words people say,
the motions they go through,
and the rituals they perform;
He sees and knows what is in the hearts
of His children.
If hatred is there,
recognized but unconfessed sin there,
disobedience or faithlessness there,
the spirit of God knows,
and the heart of God is displeased.
The hymns of praise, the verbal confessions and prayers,
and the religious ceremonies enacted do nothing
for those people who wear their religion like a coat.
People may impress their naïve and undiscerning friends
with their religious activity,
but God looks into the hearts of His creatures
and He knows what goes on there.
It is not what a person wears
that makes that person acceptable to God;
it is what he or she truly believes—
what he or she is truly committed to—
that determines the source and object
and quality of faith.