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When Jesus said the religious people of his day had made the Word of God of no effect by their traditions, I believe he was referring to something which may be described in modern terminology as "respectability".

The desire to be accepted and respected by others is almost as powerful as greed. Respectability is more likely to inspire people to do selfless acts, because respectability is the counterfeit of faith in God, whereas greed is the antithesis of faith in God. But respectability and greed usually go hand in hand.

In order to be respected, people go to church, pray, read their Bibles, contribute to charities, and stay faithful to their marriage partners. In short they do virtually all of the good things that the Bible encourages us to do. But they do them all in order to receive the praise and respect of others besides God.

Jesus was not against such good works. But he taught people to take them to such an extreme that they would crack open the myth of respectability. People who literally follow Jesus expose respectability for the lie that it is, because they cause the supposed supporters of virtue in our society to turn on true Christians, sometimes quite viciously.

Jesus says, for example, that we should not only pray but that we should also do these pious acts secretly, so that others will not know about it. This separates true piety from respectability.

Jesus says that we should not only go to church and put something in the collection plate, but also that we should LIVE in the church, seven days a week, and give everything that we have to the work of the church. Once again, this blasts us out of the respectability mould and into a realm of total dependency on and dedication to God.

As we go through the various teachings of Jesus, we not only discover that true faith calls on us to go beyond what is respectable, but we actually learn that respectability is one of the worst enemies of faith. It causes people to hate true faith with a passion.

The bad guys in the gospels were not drug dealers, bank robbers, prostitutes, heretics, or political traitors. In fact, by comparison with the real bad guys in the gospels, these people came across more as the good guys.

The bad guys were the Pharisees -- religious hypocrites (according to Jesus) who did all their virtuous acts to be seen and praised by others. Jesus said that they were respectably impressive on the outside, but full of death and decay on the inside. He told us not to be like them. (Matthew 23:27-28)

But where is that being preached in the so-called Christian world today? Our religious leaders continue to imitate the Pharisees more than they imitate Jesus. And the ignorant masses continue to be impressed, because these imposters talk about the Bible, prayer, love, faith, and other virtues and virtuous acts. And they do so while secretly opposing all that Jesus taught.

Jesus says that they make the Word of God (i.e. the teachings of Jesus) of no effect through their traditions (i.e. through their quest for respectability). (Mark 7:13)

(See also WWFJD?, Fear of Public Opinion, False Christs,
and The Social Conscience Part 1.)

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