I read an article today that started with a title like “Pastor Hates Religion” or something like that. The article was discussing how a pastor says religion isn’t helpful. The article was discussing Alex Himaya, senior pastor of theChurchat (and yes that is spelled correctly). Pastor Himaya has written a book entitled Jesus hates Religion and in his book he defines religion as man’s need to save himself or repay God for what God has already done through Jesus and the Cross. Alex was discussing the issue of faith and that no one can repay God for what Jesus did on the cross. The title of the article was very misleading, but it did get me to skim through which I am sure was the point. As I skimmed through the page it gave me the idea for this article. So… does Jesus hate religion? Does Jesus hate religious people? One’s immediate response to this would possibly be no, but is that accurate? The bible may actually prove otherwise. Biblically there are many instances of Jesus’ discontent with the way religion was being conducted and the religious people conducting the practices. Religion as I am using it here is the worship of God and interpretation of scripture. Let us review some of the scriptures that support Jesus not liking His own Jewish religion or its Jewish leaders.
Jesus Upset w/ Religious Leaders
1One day the Pharisees and Sadducees came to test Jesus, demanding that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority. 4Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign, but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah.b” Then Jesus left them and went away. – Matthew 16
Jesus Frustrated by Religious People
2The next Sabbath (Jesus )he began teaching in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. They asked, “Where did he get all this wisdom and the power to perform such miracles?” 3Then they scoffed, “He’s just a carpenter, the son of Marya and the brother of James, Joseph,b Judas, and Simon. And his sisters live right here among us.” They were deeply offended and refused to believe in him. 4Then Jesus told them, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family.” … 6And he was amazed at their unbelief. – Mark 6
Jesus Enraged at the Desecration of the Church
12Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out all the people buying and selling animals for sacrifice. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves. 13He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves!” – Matthew 21
This is not yet a tenth of the scriptures relating to Jesus and His frustration, anger, disappointment and in some cases disdain for religion and religious people. So in fact, does Jesus hate religion. The answer to this despite the scriptures presented is a resounding NO! Jesus loves religion as defined by the honoring, worship and praise of God. What Jesus does not care for is people who do NOT honor, worship and praise God, but are considered to be religious people or even more so the religious elite. What I mean by this is people who claim to love God, but are only putting on a show for others. They help when the are being watched or will be recognized or have faith only when faith is not necessary. Jesus did not kick over all of the money changer’s tables in the city only the ones in the church. Evil people being evil and businessmen conducting business was fine by Jesus. They would one day be judged for their behaviors. Jesus only became upset when those who were supposed to be worshippers of God were in church conducting business. They came into God’s house for a purpose other than to honor, worship and praise the Almighty God of Heaven. This makes God a footnote and an opportunity similar to going to a football game for the purpose of selling T-Shirts. You may care about the game, but not enough for it to be your primary focus. The game then becomes an opportunity to make money so you go. It is disrespectful to those who are going, not to buy shirts, but to see the game and most disrespectful to those who are hosting the game if you are selling without their approval, and none of these people had God or Jesus’s approval to run a personal business inside of the house of God. Moving on, Jesus, didn’t condemn all religious leaders only the ones who were bad examples of what God actually wanted religious leaders to be e.g.
23“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,g 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. – Matthew 23
Jesus goes on to say…
27“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. 28Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness. – Matthew 23
In the end Jesus loves people, Jesus loves religious people, BUT Jesus is not too fond of religious people who are hypocritical. If you are broken or struggling with sin, be open with God and others about it so they can pray and help you to get it right. What Jesus is condemning is those who are deep in sin yet are leaders of His church refusing to repent, admit their struggle to themselves and God and turn away from their sin.
Footnote: Alex Himaya also mentioned responding to Jesus and not trying to repay Jesus and we will discuss this in the next WT.