Knee Deep in the Hoopla

We like to think we’re different than the religious leaders who judged Jesus and his disciples for eating with tax collectors, or dragged the woman caught in adultery into the streets to stone her, or became indignant when Jesus healed the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath.

We are not.

When we’re more worried about what the people at church think more than what breaks the heart of God, we’re just like them. When we protect an institution and its reputation over protecting the people within it, we’re just like them. When we use the words of the Bible to control and manipulate others, to power over in any way, we’re just like them.

When we believe our church attendance, volunteer work, and Bible study groups make us “good” Christians, we’re just like them. When we believe our pastor, church, denomination, interpretation, or tradition has all the right answers, we are just like them.

Church, we’re as knee deep in the hoopla as they were then. The story in Matthew 15:1-9 highlights the hoopla problem.

The Hoopla

Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”

Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’  they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:

 “‘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 hoopla is anything that steals the place of God in our lives. It can be work, addictions, wealth, status, education, thrill-seeking, and a list of a hundred other things, including religion. The Bible calls these idols, and church and all its activities can be a sneaky one. We usually move from idol to idol, back and forth, again and again, and seek several of them at the same time. We each have our favorites.

He Turns to Us

The disciples dealt with these same issues, and over and over again Jesus invited them to turn from their idols, their old ways of thinking, and their ideas of how to solve the problems or how Jesus would rescue His people. His invitation is for us here and now.

His invitation is to turn to Him, over and over again. When we realize again that our idols won’t satisfy, turn to Him. When we are weary of keeping up the image, sick of the emptiness, and restless to know Him better, He not only invites us…He turns to us.

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
    and put their trust in him.

Psalm 40

Jesus, lift us from the hoopla and fix our eyes on You.

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

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  1. Chris Hairston on September 4, 2023 at 12:05 pm

    This is a difficult subject to put into words. I have made many Church leaders angry trying to let people know God loves them with all their imperfections, and that He wants to draw them to Him and clean them up, not the other way around.
    Great job.

    • marieg on September 4, 2023 at 7:41 pm

      Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts, Chris. Your words make me think of an old Baptist hymn we’d sing as the invitational. It was called Just As I Am. That’s exactly how He wants us. Just as we are.

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