Friday, June 17, 2011

The Religion of Looking Good and Feeling Good

There is a religion that is creeping into churches around the world. It may even be at your church. It is a religion that only has one premise—a religion that we can all fall into at times. No one is exempt from it. This religion is called: The Religion of Looking-Good-and-Feeling-Good.

The Religion of Looking-Good-and-Feeling-Good believes one thing:

When you look good, you feel good.

Let me give you an example. In the Religion of Looking-Good-and-Feeling-Good, one would not wear just any old clothes to church, but would make sure that their clothes are pressed and it is the absolute best clothes that they own. Not only that, they would be clothes from the most popular brands. Besides, we all know that if you look good…you feel good.

In the Religion of Looking-Good-and-Feeling-Good, one would need to give money in the offering plate at church. However, this person would not just give a twenty dollar bill, or a fifty. They wouldn't even give a one hundred dollar bill. They would go to the bank and cash all their bills for pennies so that everyone would hear the clink and clatter of the pennies in the offering. Why? Because we all know, when you look good, you feel good. And besides the looking good and feeling good, giving $1 in pennies sounds so much more spiritual than dropping a $20 in the plate.

Those who adhere to this religion are very good at telling jokes. But these jokes wouldn’t be aimed at themselves. The joke would put someone else down, and seemingly exalt the joke teller. We all know that when you look good, you feel good.

Let’s look at today’s worship services for another example. In the Religion of Looking-Good-and-Feeling-Good, one would stand in the front row, and raise their hands, and close their eyes, and really, really ‘worship’. Everyone can see them, and everyone may think that they are more spiritual than everyone else because they raised their hands.

These are extreme examples, but you get the point. This religion is not just a modern problem. Christ addressed the very thing in Matthew 6.

In this chapter Jesus teaches his disciples about three areas that have one over-arching principle to them. These three areas are that of giving, praying, and fasting. The over-arching principle is this: Do what you do in secret, not in front of people so that you receive their praise. You could sum it up this way: don’t draw attention to yourself.

Jesus first addresses giving. In the Religion of Looking-Good-and-Feeling-Good, as we have already said, one would give lots of pennies in the offering plate, so that many people would hear and see ‘how much’ they were giving. Jesus says that this is hypocrisy. Jesus taught his disciples not to announce what they were giving. He taught them to give quietly. He says not even to let your right hand know what your left hand is giving. Keep it a secret! Christ said that there is open reward for those who give in secret.

Prayer is the next thing that Christ addresses. In the Religion of Looking-Good-and-Feeling-Good, one who prays would pray in front of a lot of people and use extravagant language just so that they would look better, or more spiritual than every one else. Why do they do this? You can already tell me the answer. When you look feel good. Christ taught his disciples to pray in the secret. He told them not to use vain repetitions and empty flowery language. In fact, Jesus gave the disciples a model to follow when they pray.

Fasting is the third thing that Christ addresses in this passage. In the Religion of Looking-Good-and-Feeling-Good, what would someone do when they are fasting? This person would make sure that you understand how hungry they are, how long it has been since they've eaten, or how much of a sacrifice it is for them to be fasting. They make it look as if they are in pain over the whole thing. Basically they are working to get attention from other people, because when you look good…you feel good. Again, Christ taught to fast secretly. True fasting is before the Lord and no one else.

Let's use a label for this religion that Christ himself used. He described these people as 'Pharisees'. The Pharisees were the perfect example of this 'feel good' attitude. Everything that they did was to look and seem more spiritual than the next guy. They would wear fancy clothes, pray in the streets, let you know how much they gave and how little you gave. They would fast in public. They could 'do' all the right 'spiritual' things outwardly, but inside it was all for personal gain and not for the Lord. Are you caught in this? Do you find yourself looking for the praise of man?

There is a solution to this attitude: do what you do unto the Lord. When you focus on giving unto the Lord, you won’t want to draw attention to yourself, you will want to draw attention to the Lord. When you pray to the Lord, you will want to draw attention to Him. When you fast, you won’t go flaunting it around as an “I'm-more-spiritual-than-you” kind of thing. Jesus put it this way: “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, not here on earth. Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” This whole attitude depends on where you are trying to store up treasure. If you are trying to get man’s approval, your heart will be here on this earth. If you are doing everything as unto the Lord, then your heart will be in heaven. Where is your heart today?

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