Thursday, June 11, 2015

Idolatrous Love

"But woe to you Pharisees! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and the love of God; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the chief seats in the synagogues and the respectful greetings in the market places. Woe to you! For you are like concealed tombs, and the people who walk over them are unaware of it. " (Luke 11:42-44 NASB)

Jesus delivered a series of "woe's" to those in attendance at the luncheon. "Woe" is a word of denunciation and similar to our saying, "You should be ashamed of yourself". Jesus pointed out several things about which the men should be ashamed. First, they were diligent about tithing but they did it without justice or mercy. Love was not their motivation.

In the next woe, He revealed their motivation. Their love was for the chief seats in the synagogues and the respectful greetings they received in the market places. These religious leaders did not simply enjoy the chief seats and the respectful greetings. The word Jesus used for their affection was 
agapaō. They loved the trappings of honor with the love that should be reserved for God alone. 

What the Pharisees felt for the adulation they received was a form of idolatry. They loved the rewards of their righteous behavior more than the One for whom they were supposed to be doing their acts of righteousness. They were not serving God by their good deeds. They were serving themselves. The good deeds and obedience to a list of rules were done simply for the rewards they brought, not because they pleased God.

The question of motivation is one that must be answered. For the Pharisees, the answer was nothing more than self-serving pride. They loved what right living bought them, not the God they supposedly served.

Theirs was an easy mistake to make. When we are "raised in the church", involved in "church work" most of our lives, it is easy for right living to become a matter of rote. Instead of works that are motivated by a heart filled with love for God, our good choices can become simply habit.

When that happens, it is a very small step to enjoying the benefits of right living more than the relationship that should motivate it. Rules are often easier than relationships, especially if maintaining the relationship requires change in us, and our relationship with God always requires us to change.

We must be constantly on guard against the Pharisaical error of misplaced agapaō. Our love must be focused on God and not the blessings He gives. For today, let's spend a few minutes evaluating our own hearts. Are we more focused on rules than on relationship? On what or whom do we lavish our agapaō? Let's be sure our love is for the One who loved us first.

We love because He first loved us. 
                                                                                        1 John 4:19 NASB