Going Beyond Empty Words

by Joey Clark

"These people honor me with their lips, but
their hearts are far from me."
                   - Matthew 15:8 NIV

In Jesus' time, the Pharisees (to whom the verse above is directed) had been faithful in keeping the traditions of the past, but they had all but taken God out of these traditions as well as their lives. They had been exceedingly careful to keep the rules, but they had disregarded the reasons behind the rules. In a very real way, they had become an entirely superficial society.

Are we any different? Over the last few months, I have noticed a disturbing pattern in the people around me as well as in my own life. Although it is an old problem, it seems to be something that is very difficult to put a concrete end to.

What I'm talking about is the "surface" nature of many people in their relationship with God, at least in what they say in public about that relationship. It seems to me that there are many people who know the "correct" answers - people who have grown up in church and can quote various passages of Scripture at opportune times. But by the same token, the rest of their speech and conduct fails to back up what they say. So it seems that their words are just that - words. Empty and void.

Sometimes I think we refrain from saying anything in the fear that if we do say something, we'll just be mouthing the words that we're expected to say.

I think the root of the problem here is a lack of "realness" of God in our lives. I'm sure most of you reading this believe that the Bible is true...that Jesus died for our sins...that he rose from the dead...that God is looking out for us. But as we go from day to day, situation to situation, problem to problem, it's all too easy to neglect our walk with God. Maybe we don't reject God, and don't completely forget about Him - we just lessen the importance of spending time with Him (which is bad). I'm sure we could all be closer to God if we spent more "quality time" with Him, but because of busy-ness and the tendency to say, "Well, I'll spend time with God later," sometimes we find ourselves isolated from God. In addition, I think it's also possible to read the Bible as a textbook and pray as reciting words to a poem. Even if we do the "right" things, we can still do them with the wrong attitude and find ourselves once again isolated from God.

So what about your life? Are you "intimate" with God, as we all should be? Is Jesus really your "best friend," as he should be? When you discuss spiritual issues with others, do you mean what you say? Or are you simply mouthing the words, mindlessly repeating what you have heard said before?

I hope that during this Advent season, and as the new year begins next month, we will all resist the urge to be superficial, first of all with God, and also with those around us. I'm sure we'll all hear many songs about Jesus' birth and the implications of that all-important event. But don't just listen to the tunes; hear the words as well. And don't just listen to the words; believe them. Make an honest effort over the next month or two to pursue God as you never have before. I am convinced that God is much bigger and much better than what we've come to accept. Don't settle for words - strive to know Jesus as the awesome and intimate God He really is!

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Last modified December 25, 1996