Grandma and Grandpa are shivering out in the cold, trying to stay dry under a bridge. They would have a better life if their son were not so religious. You see, their son dedicated his life savings to God. When he dies, that money will continue to help the work of God prosper. In the meantime, his mom and dad are dying right now for lack of support. The son thinks he is honoring God, yet in fact he has dishonored God by making up his own rules.
In our zeal for God, we often forget God
Jesus condemned His contemporaries because they made rules that canceled out God’s desires. The Lord had ordered children to honor and care for their parents. However, these zealous folks said they could not use their money for grandma and grandpa since they had dedicated it to God. By their own rules, they blotted out God’s. Jesus said, “Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition” (Mark 7:9).
Religion can become our religion
I make commitments for God. However, I must never let my thinking take the place of His desires. For example, I have a policy of not giving cash to people in need. I do not want to fund someone’s drug habit. I will buy them gas or groceries but not give cash. However, God’s Word does not say I should not give cash. The Lord simply says to give what we have. He says to give what they ask of us. On a rare occasion, I will feel led of the Lord to just give and not ask why or where the money is going. It goes against my grain to think I may have just bought someone a pack of Marlboros, but I have to remember why we give in the first place.
We can make up all kinds of policies. I could offend people by being too intent on fasting when I should have been more open and social. I do not do business at convenience stores that sell pornography, yet I must be sensitive if God leads me to go in and minister to someone. I know of people who will let absolutely nothing interrupt their prayer time. What if God sent the answer to their door while they were asking? They might miss God by their own rules.
Religion of rules
Once we get started on the road of making up new rules to prove our dedication to God, we can quickly crowd Him out. I am not suggesting we not discipline ourselves. I think of myself as a very strict person (so do my kids, who wonder why they do not have the movies and video games other kids have). I do not think we can be too strict on ourselves and am certainly not suggesting we give up on holiness. However, in all our zeal to ban the world from our homes and hearts, we must keep the door open for where God wants to work.
For example, one man said, “I am a generous person, but I won’t let God touch my savings account.”
Scan your list of rules. Do any of them block out God’s intentions for you? Could there be a work He wants you to do that your rules have hindered? Have you tried to exempt yourself from His call on your life, saying, “I would never be a missionary” or whatever? Are you so devoted to your personal goals that you have exempted yourself from the family He placed you with?
Do we excuse ourselves from church attendance because of holiday traditions? Christmas should not come before Christ. When family arrives from out of town, do you skip church for them, or do you seek first the kingdom?