Religion must not be skin-deep only

Believers must take the matters of faith seriously

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This world is materialistic, hard, selfish, cold and loveless. Egoism, lack of concern for others, money and love of money, things and gadgets and lusts, entertainment – those things appear to be this world’s “values”.

This affects everyone. All are influenced and formed by the society they live in. Even religious people are. But, this should not be so. Religion must not be skin-deep only; it must be a true way of living with love and care for others. That is a central part of righteousness. Believers must take the matters of faith seriously.

‘Lack of time’.

Most people spend all too little time for doing what Jesus said, as recorded here:

Matthew 22:37 And he said to him, Have love for the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the first and greatest rule. 39 And a second like it is this, Have love for your neighbour as for yourself. (BBE)

Do not miss verse 39 in that scripture-quote. Please note that this with having love towards one’s neighbour, is a matter of acting, doing things. Consider even this passage:

Matthew 25:44 Then will they make answer, saying, Lord, when did we see you in need of food or drink, or wandering, or without clothing, or ill, or in prison, and did not take care of you? 45 Then will he make answer to them, saying, Truly I say to you, Because you did it not to the least of these, you did it not to me. (BBE)

Let us also read something in the epistle of James:

James 2:14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (ESV01)

As you can see, James was talking about good works – putting into practice this with loving one’s neighbour as one loves oneself which the above-quoted Matthew 22:39 refers to.

It appears that many people feel that they “do not have time” for such things as good works. And yet, many of them spend hours upon hours on hobbies, “social media”, TV-watching, book-reading, computer games, and so on.

Again, believers must take the matters of faith seriously. Here is a suggestion, a seriously meant one:

First, figure out the actual amount of time that you in an active way use daily for being together with your close ones, and for doing good works such as caring for the needy. And then, figure out how much time you use for clubs and hobbies, newspaper-reading, books and so on, and for listening to the radio or music, and the amount of time you spend on TV or videos or computer games or similar things.

When you do that analysis of your life, you will find out what and where your priorities have been and are.

On true religion, James 1:22 and 27.

“Study and prayer” are not, and must not be, a goal in themselves. Prayer is important, and it is important to personally study the Scriptures – but, the true way of faith does not consist of “study and prayer”. It is the “doing” part that is important. Which is to say, that one lives and acts in a way that is pleasing to God. A vital part of that is connected to how one treats other human beings, including one’s own family.

James 1:22 But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 Because if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man looking at his own face in a mirror; 24 for he looks at himself, goes away, and right away forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer who acts—this person will be blessed in what he does. 26 If anyone thinks he is religious, without controlling his tongue but deceiving his heart, his religion is useless. 27 Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (HCSB)

Make sure to read all of that scripture-quote, without missing verse 27. Good works are an integral part of righteousness.

Here, it can be good to know that the original meaning of the English word which today is spelled “righteousness”, is right-wise-ness (right-ways-ness). That refers to living in the right way (manners and actions). The article rga083.htm has more on what new-covenantal righteousness is and consists of, but right here it can be noted that doing good works is an important part of it. And, let us not forget the last seven words in the above-quoted verse 27.

A note: Many churches have caused people to believe that if they join the church, they become “holy”, “justified” and “good”. But, the facts are different. What counts is how one lives – what one does, and what one does not do. Read the above-quoted James 1:22–27 one more time. Do not miss the note regarding self-deception, verse 22.

(The article raa042.htm takes a closer look at the word and concept “worship”.)

Beware of bad influences.

All the time, people are fed by “values” which are in different ways spread by the wicked spirit rulers of this world.

People take in those things: For instance on TV and videos, they watch war, murder, illicit sex, lust, stealing, violence, materialism, deceiving religion, occult things, ungodliness, dishonesty, disloyalty, and much more of the same kind and even worse. One must not deceive oneself and think that watching those things has no impact on how one is and thinks and acts. Of course it does.

The same kind of evils are fed to people through music. Analyse the words of a few popular songs, country-music, rock or whatever, in order to see what you really are being fed, what kind of “values” your mind is being filled with. Are those “values” true and righteous ones? Also, much of the so-called “music” is quite destructive in itself, and may actually be designed to have a bad effect on the human psyche, even through physical means. Add to that, all the things that “music” in our day has as peripherals, on video as well as live – often horrible, wicked things.

People sit there in front of a TV, watching all that horrible and sinful stuff, and they say, “See what dirt they are sending!” So, why don’t they turn off that TV? One must stop watching and taking in such evil things. (Those things are also spread via radio and printed media and in other ways, including the internet and computer games.) The article rwa062.htm contains a challenge to believers, in that regard.

A side-note: Why is there evil in this world? The article rwa012.htm has some notes on that matter. The article roa012.htm considers the Reign or Kingdom of God – what, when and where it is.

In some countries, the very words that people use, and the way they speak, and even their values, are often more a product of the TV, including commercials, than of any other single source.

In many countries, the TV is to a large degree the source where people get their “education” and “upbringing”, and even their conscious as well as unconscious “moral values”. That “education” begins when they are mere toddlers.

Many people have TV-sets in several rooms in their home. Some have their TVs on from breakfast to bed-time. Today, many people have that also on their mobile phones and portable computers.

It is not really the parents who teach their children how to speak or what words to use or what values to have. To a large degree, it is the TV and similar things that do that. Again, in many cases, a large part of people’s vocabulary and manner of speaking comes from the TV. And yes, those things affect the way people think and act.

Many people love the TV. But – and this refers to the words of Jesus as recorded in the earlier quoted Matthew 22:37–39 – how many people love God and his son Jesus, and their fellow human beings? Unfortunately the answer to that question is that mostly, the TV and other “entertainment” is loved much more than God or fellow man. “We do not have time to visit that person today, because the 173rd instalment of that program is on the TV today.” “I cannot go and help old aunt Olga who sits in a wheelchair, because I must see that show.” Now, many people may not consciously think that way, but those things are there, nevertheless. They become unconscious and automatic. They direct the lives of many.

Again, the article rwa062.htm contains a challenge to believers, in that regard.

It is important to stop and consider how one lives.

Once again: Believers must take the matters of faith seriously.

The Scriptures mention many things that believers should be doing and practising. Do you know what those things really are, and do you keep doing them, as a continual habit?

For instance, do you care for the aged and the sick and the needy and the lonely, and visit and help them? Do you really love your family and your other fellow humans, just as you love your own self? In action, and not just in words? Also: Do you really live together and communicate with your family, in an active way? How and where do you spend your time? Also: Do you respect people and treat them well, without regard to their financial or social status and cultural background and skin colour?

Unfortunately, many people feel that they do not have “time” to visit aunt Beata who broke her hip, because they have some “important” thing to do (and something else, the next day). And, unfortunately, many do not help the old lady next door, for instance because “She is such a strange woman; just look at her clothes.” And so on.

Many people do not even have time for their own families, because of all the “entertainment” and social media and other such things that take their time – or work (making more and more money), or gym training or clubs or hobbies or whatever.

Also, many people think, perhaps not consciously but nevertheless, along such lines as, “We cannot afford to help that widow with her five children, because we need a better car.” (Or a trip to the Bahamas, or whatever.)

(A note: Often, it is personal engagement that is needed, in the way of good works, and not money.)

Some might defend and justify themselves, for not helping people who are in need of help, by saying or thinking such things as “she should blame herself for marrying that drunkard, anyway”, and, “why did she get all those kids”, and so on. All too often people even say (or think, perhaps unconsciously) such things as “on top of that, she is a foreigner” – or black, or white, or whatever. Is that correct thinking? No.

Who are one’s closest ‘neighbours’?

If one has a family or lives in a family, then one’s closest “neighbours” are in one’s home. That is where one must start a proper life as a believer, right at home. Then one can “grow outward”, to one’s extended family and people who live close by, and so on.

That is, one must learn to really love other people and to care for them. – Yes, learn, because those things do not come automatically. Learning comes by practice. – Those who keep doing that, will probably notice that wealth and gadgets and cars and TV and clubs and hobbies and “social media” and travel abroad and so on, are not so important after all. Doing good things makes even the doer feel good, and not only those who are helped.

Again, a note: Often, good works can consist of practical help and comfort and so on, rather than of giving monetary aid.

But, one must not deceive oneself into believing that one is “something”, just because one does some “good thing”. Also: One must not do good works for one’s own sake; that is not the purpose.

Jesus warned his disciples that the love of many would grow cold, Matthew 24:12. Alright, it may be that that referred to those disciples’ love towards Jesus. But again, consider even these words: “Because you did it not to the least of these, you did it not to me” (Matthew 25:45).

Righteousness and good works go hand in hand.

Anyone who carefully studies what the New Testament teaches, should be able to see that good works are an important part of a true life of faith, and that those works, or the lack of them, will be taken into consideration when the time of judgment comes for one.

Please note that one does not “become righteous” by doing good works. But, righteous people do good works. And no, “going to church” or giving money to some church or preacher, are not “acts of righteousness”. This with “have love for your neighbour as for yourself”, Matthew 22:39, has nothing to do with churches or preachers.

It is very easy for us humans to be superficial. Thus, it all too easily happens that one’s religion is skin-deep only. And no, it does not make things any better if some preacher keeps telling one how “great” a church one attends, or how “great” people the followers of that preacher supposedly are. What counts, is how one lives, what one actually does, and what one fails to do.

‘I am so tired’.

If someone feels that he or she, after a day at work, does not have the “energy” for doing anything except watching the TV, then it could be that that person is deceiving him- or herself. Could it be that it is all that passive TV watching, that makes one so tired? Sometimes, it can also be a matter of working too much, just in order to get more and more money and material things. Further: Even lack of bodily exercise, or a wrong diet, or simply boredness – the lack of meeting real people and being with them – can make one’s mind and body tired.

If one considers oneself to be a believer, then one must do one’s best to live in harmony with one’s fellow humans, in love. That includes being interested in how other people are doing, instead of being anxious about how it will go for some figure (actor) in the next instalment of some TV-soap, or about a “lost extra life” in some violent computer game.

Different needs that people have.

Many people are in various ways in need of help from others. Often, they may need, not only fellowship and help but even prayers (James 5:16), but for those who are on the helping side, the good works – caring and helping and comforting – must be a priority, instead of merely “saying a few words” in prayer for other people just before one falls asleep.

Also: People often need, not only practical help but also love and friendship and encouragement, or maybe just a shoulder to cry on. Even here, the place to begin is one’s own family, including the older generation. Unfortunately, many of those who call themselves “believers”, in various ways neglect their own families.

A note: If one needs more love towards others (we all have lacks in that regard), then one must ask for it from God, in prayer.

And again, the way to learn something is to start practising. One cannot learn to drive a car without actually getting behind the wheel and driving. It is the same with works of love, good works: One must practise, by being good and doing good. Those things are a central part of righteousness, being a true believer. Believers are to love God and his son Jesus, and also their fellow human beings.

See also the “recommended reading” section, below.

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Recommended reading here at the Bible Pages, on related as well as other matters.

An explanation of the short names for the bible-translations that are quoted or mentioned at this site. → rsa092.htm

What does the word “righteous” really mean? What does the Bible say about righteousness? → rga083.htm

Worshipping God. What does the Bible say about worship, in connection with the New Covenant? → raa042.htm

A challenge to all believers, regarding something important. → rwa062.htm

Why does God allow evil, sickness, pain, war and suffering? → rwa012.htm

What is the Kingdom of God? Where is it located? Does it exist already, or is it only going to be established in the future? Or, is it merely something “in the hearts of men”? → roa012.htm

On pride and humility in connection with religion. → rga102.htm

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