Matthew 5:20 – For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. (NIV)
Matthew 23:5-6 – Everything they do is for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues. (NIV)
When my children were growing up, the church we attended had a points system. There was a medal for three months' perfect attendance, another for six months' perfect attendance, and at the end of the year, a third medal and a little banner on which to wear the medals and add additional ones each year when no days were missed. Some of the children, by their teen years, had so many medals that larger banners were needed.
This system worked well to motivate the children, but it had a competitive edge. It elevated the best attendance, but it did not reflect the spiritual knowledge the children had gained. Many of the children were there because their parents had brought them, rather than through motivation of their own.
The Pharisees were good at working out a religious point system that kept track of everything. By Jesus' day, they had taken the Ten Commandments and turned them into at least a thousand rules. What, then, about the children who missed days at Sunday School, yet in their hearts walked with Christ? He was their focus, rather than points or medals. The points system can become a religion. Knowing and walking with Jesus is a spiritual relationship. One keeps score; the other keeps the faith. The points system is trying to please God. Spirituality is walking with and enjoying God.
Prayer: Lord, remind us to walk with You and enjoy Your presence, rather than keeping score of what we are doing. You already know the score. You want to share our hearts. Amen.