In Matthew 15:3-9 Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death. But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:

“‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.

“They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.”

The Pharisees had a clever way of evading their responsibility to take care of their aged parents. God had commanded them to honor their mothers and fathers, but they had declared all their resources “Devoted to God” and considered themselves exempt from assisting their parents. 

Their actions were comparable to someone saying today, “I have willed everything I have to the church, therefore it would be wrong for me to take what rightfully belongs to God and give it to my parents even though they need help. All the money I have left over belongs to the Lord!” 

Since there were no Social Security benefits or pension plans to draw from in the first century, older people who were no longer able to work depended almost entirely on their children to provide for them. 

But the Pharisees not only exempted themselves by declaring that everything belonged to God; they left the impression that they were super spiritual by doing so. In reality they were selfish and greedy.

In disgust, Jesus quoted Isaiah, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain.” Jesus made it clear that worship is meaningless if it isn’t backed up by a sincere, godly life. 

Our worship must sometimes appear hypocritical to God. We go to church, sing the songs, pray the prayers, take the elements of communion, say “Amen” to the sermon, and appear so pious. Then we get into our cars and scream at another driver, “Get out of my way!” We hassle with our family over which television program to watch on Sunday afternoon and gripe, “Get out of my way!” We go to work on Monday and take selfish advantage of others while mumbling, “Get out of my way.” 

Like the Pharisees, our worship can be in vain. It’s easy to worship God with our lips while our hearts are far from him. “Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart” (Psalm 15:1-2).

True worship is not a Sunday morning service, it’s a lifestyle. When people see Jesus in you, they’re looking at true worship. 


When you attend a public worship service, do you worship God with your heart or only with your lips?

In your opinion, what church customs hinder your congregation’s best worship? 

What habits of your own heart hinder your best personal worship?


Paul Leavens is the Minister of Lindsay Christian Church. Visit the church website at

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