Do you know who really bugs me?
Religious people bug me.
I could tell you why,
but a guy named Jefferson Bethke
said it pretty well. And his words have
over 33 million views on You Tube.......
So, I’m going to
Have you heard this idea that Bethke lays out, Jesus not religion? You don’t have to go too far to prove it. Just look at Jesus. When it came to people who were really messing up, even traitors to his country, Jesus welcomed them. But no one bugged him more than religious people, not bad religious people, but even really good ones. What was Jesus’ problem? In these words, Jesus points the way. Let’s hear what Jesus has to say.
You don’t have to go far in the stories of Jesus to find conflicts Jesus has with religious people. They happened all the time. They got so bad that religious people even worked with non-religious to kill him. But what was the problem? When you listen to words like we just heard, religious folks should have loved that stuff. Some did. But most didn’t. You see. Jesus was bringing a revolution, but not a revolution that changed things on the outside. Jesus brought a revolution that changed things on the inside, in how people think. And that revolution, religious people did not get. In fact, lots still don’t.
In Bethke’s performance, did you catch it? This guy thought he got the whole Jesus thing. He thought he was a Christian. He hung out with Christians. He attended a Christian church. He did the whole Christian deal. But even then, he still didn’t get it. What didn’t he get?
In the words you just heard, and actually in this whole thing, called the sermon on the mount, Jesus is making a contrast. But Jesus isn’t making a contrast between people doing good things and people doing bad things. Jesus is making a contrast between two types of people who are both doing good things. They both pray. They both do good deeds. They both try to live by the Ten Commandments. They both connect to a religious community. On the outside they look the same. But inside something radically different is going on.
It’s why at the very end of the sermon, Jesus gives these three images of this contrast. Jesus talks about two path, two trees, two houses. He says one of these paths leads to life, and the other to death. One of these trees will feed you, and the other will make you sick. And one of these houses can withstand anything, but the other house will collapse when the storm hits. But do you see what each image has in common? On the outside all these things look much the same. In fact, with the path, Jesus even tells you that the wrong path appears to be the most attractive, to be the best.
In this sermon, Jesus isn’t so much giving you direction on how to live a good life. Jesus is painting a contrast between two ways of being good, one that will give you life, and one that will destroy you.
If you look into the sermon, you’ll see. Jesus never says something like. This is what bad people do, and this is what good people do. He doesn’t say. Here’s the difference between people who pray and people who don’t. No, Jesus says this instead. Lots of people pray like this. But I tell you to pray like that. Or he’ll say. Lots of people give to the poor like this. But I tell you to give to the poor like this. Lots of people obey the ten commandments like this. But I tell you to obey them like that. Do you see what Jesus is telling you? Jesus is saying. Two ways exist in the world to live a good, upright life. But one of those ways will poison you. One will fall apart in tough times. One will lead towards your destruction.
Look at how Jesus puts it in the words we read. Whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do likewise will be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven, and whoever performs and teaches it will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. Sure you’d like to be in the great group. But here’s the good news, whether least or great, you’re still in. But hold on, then Jesus says this. For I tell you that, unless your uprightness surpasses that of the Scribes and Pharisees, the most religious of Jesus’ day, you shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Did Jesus just contradict himself? No, Jesus is saying. What I’m bringing you surpasses, goes beyond religion. My gospel, my good news goes deeper than the religious stuff that the Scribes and Pharisees teach. Now, how does it go beyond? How does it go deeper?
Jesus points to that in the words we just read. Jesus talks about two types of folks who have a light. They just do different things with it. One puts it under a basket. The other puts it up on a lampstand. In other words, both are doing good deeds, but in one case the good deeds get obscured. And in the other, it shines out for all to appreciate. And that’s the first way you see the difference in these two ways, how they relate to the world around them. People who get Jesus’ message will be, as the preacher Tim Keller puts it, attracted to, and attractive to, people who don’t believe what they do or live how they live. In other words, they bring their light out into the world. And people, even people who disagree with them, are glad they do.
But religious people get repelled by those same folks. They separate themselves from them. In other words, they keep their light under this basket. And the folks these religious folks don’t like are happy they do. They don’t want their light. These religious folks repel them right back.
The salt image points to the same idea. What does salt do? It makes things more flavorful, more tasty. But if I put salt on some fish, I don’t say. Boy, that was good salt. No, I say. Gosh that fish tasted wonderful. People who get Jesus’ message don’t necessarily call attention to themselves. But when people encounter them, they typically feel better after the encounter than before. On the other hand, when folks encounter religious people, they often feel worse. They feel judged, evaluated, looked down upon. What’s the difference?
Jesus tells a little story warning about someone who notices a speck in their friend’s eye, while ignoring the plank in their own. But those who get Jesus’ way do the opposite of hid example. They always evaluate the flaws in the lives of others as specks and see their own as planks. Now, why do they do that? They don’t do it because they’re feeling terrible about themselves or have a horrible self-image. They are doing it because they understand at a deeper level what the real problem is. It’s the problem that Jesus is getting to when he talks about that your uprightness going beyond that of Scribes and Pharisees. When Jesus said that, he must have shocked everyone. That’s why he takes most of the rest of the sermon on the mount to clarify what he means.
Jesus basically goes through the ten commandments to explain the difference. With each one, he points to the same issue. He says. Religious folks focus on outward compliance, not doing the bad thing. But I want to focus on something deeper. I want to focus on what’s going on in your heart. When your heart is right, the outward stuff takes care of itself.
Let’s take how Jesus talks about murder. Religious people will tell you as long you’re not killing people, you’re good. But Jesus says. If you despise folks or disregard them or belittle them, then you’ve killed them, at least in your heart. And he does this same thing with all sorts of issues, adultery and lust, telling the truth, vengeance and forgiveness. In each one, he drills down past whatever you are doing on the outside, to what is really happening inside. And in doing this, Jesus is simply saying this. I don’t want you to change on the outside. I want to see you changed on the inside. I want to see your inner life transformed. Jesus wants that to happen, because Jesus realizes the truth.
At the heart, when religion drives your life, it drives you with the same two things that drive people who are doing bad things. It drives you with fear and with pride. What do I mean? Let’s say you have someone who lies. Why do they lie? Maybe they lie because they’re scared they’ll lose a deal or a relationship, something they value. Or maybe they lie because they don’t want to look bad or because they enjoy pulling a fast one, showing they’re the smart one, in other words, pride.
And why does a religious person not lie? Well, they don’t lie because maybe they’re afraid God will get them or others will find out. Or maybe you don’t lie, because you say to yourself. I’m not like those folks who lie. I’m better than that. I tell the truth. But in both cases, the same stuff drives both people – fear and pride.
So, what changes your heart? What breaks you free of this fear and pride. Jesus points to it when he talks about letting your light shine. What will people do when that happens? They will give glory, Jesus says, to your father in heaven. And in that simple word for God, Jesus is pointing to the truth that changes everything. What changes your heart? It’s when you know who you really are, when you know you really are God’s child. It’s when you know how infinitely God values you, how deeply he loves you. After all, why do religious people do what they do? They do it to get value, to feel valued, worthy. But those who get Jesus’ way, why do they do good? They know. They know how already valued, how worthy they are. They get it. God isn’t their boss. God is their daddy, their mommy. When you screw up with your boss, your boss might fire you. But when you screw up with your parents, they won’t like it, but fire you? No way. If anything, their love for you grows more intense.
And when you look at God in Jesus, you see how intense God’s love for you is. God loved you so much that when you got lost, God did everything to find you. In Jesus, God even gave up everything, even God’s life to bring you home. And when you know that, how deeply God loves you, how intensely, how infinitely, that changes your heart. It changes you as nothing else can, including religion. It changes you inside and out.