Ha! That’s as huge a theological question as there ever can be. I sure don’t think that I can come up with any cogent answer to that question in one blog post… or ten, or ten trillion even.
So how about I just let God tell us Himself… In three translations just so you’d find at least one that suits you.
Amos 5:21-24 MSG
“I can’t stand your religious meetings. I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions. I want nothing to do with your religion projects, your pretentious slogans and goals. I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes, your public relations and image making. I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music. When was the last time you sang to me? Do you know what I want? I want justice—oceans of it. I want fairness—rivers of it. That’s what I want. That’s all I want.
Amos 5:21-24 GNT
The Lord says, “I hate your religious festivals; I cannot stand them! When you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; I will not accept the animals you have fattened to bring me as offerings. Stop your noisy songs; I do not want to listen to your harps. Instead, let justice flow like a stream, and righteousness like a river that never goes dry.
Amos 5:21-24 NKJV
“I hate, I despise your feast days, And I do not savor your sacred assemblies. Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them, Nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings. Take away from Me the noise of your songs, For I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments. But let justice run down like water, And righteousness like a mighty stream.
Wait a second, is God saying we shouldn’t go to church anymore? Absolutely not. In fact he does say we should be sure to not stay away from church.
Hebrews 10:25 NLT
And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.
What God really wants is for ‘churching’ not to be an end in itself. God’s problem is that our fellowships, and religious services have become elaborate concerts that are an end in themselves. For many, they have very little, or not enough spill over effect in their lives during the week.
Consistently, the Bible teaches that our religious services are a means to an end and where that end is not realized, then they are just hollow rituals.
While we are wont to make big deals out of things like fasting, paying tithe and sounding sanctimonious, here’s what God says about those things relative to what he really wants…
Isaiah 58:3-7 NLT
‘We have fasted before you!’ they say. ‘Why aren’t you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don’t even notice it!’ “I will tell you why!” I respond. “It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves. Even while you fast, you keep oppressing your workers. What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me. You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the lord ? “No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.
Matthew 23:23 NLT
“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.
James 2:15-17 NLT
Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.
So God says, unless our faith and religious practices actually go on to produce good deeds, they are in themselves dead and useless. Strong words! Thankfully they come from God himself not man.
What God really wants is for our religious rubber to hit the road everyday and make a real difference in the world. Be the light!