Duty or Devotion?

Another lesson from Mark 7—you could say that God whacked me over the head with this chapter. I couldn’t leave it and move on. I kept hearing Jesus rebuking the Pharisees for dutifully following their traditions without devotion to following God’s commands.

Jesus quotes Isaiah to describe them:

“These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.”

Jesus called them hypocrites and said that they nullify the word of God by their tradition—a scathing rebuke for the religious leaders of the day. He called their worship meaningless—how tragic! I had to stop reading and evaluate my own worship.

For me, memorizing Scripture and saying it out loud is worship. It’s my connection to God. Saying his words back to him, I sense his presence, I hear his voice, I feel his approval. I treasure this part of my worship and I’m fully devoted to this practice.

As one who loves to speak God’s Word, I shudder to think that Jesus might say about me, “You speak my words with your lips but your heart is far away.” “You nullify the word of God because knowing the words is a higher priority than doing what it says.”

It’s a subtle deception to think that because I memorize, or say God’s word aloud, that my heart is automatically right with God. When I’m honest with myself I see my wretched heart and my inability to follow through on what I know. The truth is, the more proficient I become at memorizing, the more I am able to recite a passage without my heart being engaged. Can’t we all dutifully recite the pledge of allegiance without feeling any patriotism for our country? Obligatory words come out of our mouths at the appointed time, but they’ve lost their meaning.

If you think this couldn’t happen to you, may I remind you that the Pharisees could also quote God’s Word! They impressed others with their knowledge but Jesus saw right through them.

James reminds us all not to be merely hearers of the Word, but doers.

As a community of memorizers we celebrate our common bond—we love to memorize God’s Word. We desire to honor God with our lips as we speak his words. May we also commit ourselves to keeping each other accountable to live the words we speak. May our devotion to obeying God’s words never be trumped by our chosen duty to memorize them.

May Isaiah’s prophecy never be said of us.

10 comments to Duty or Devotion?

  • Chris Gray

    Amen, powerful word of encouragement in The Lord! Thanks Janet!
    Love in Christ,

  • Carmen Cole

    Yes, absolutely. I have to keep evaluating myself to make sure my head & heart are in the right place. I tend to be a Martha more than a Mary so I have to watch.
    Thank you for that lesson today.

  • Wow! my friend, Janet, your words of wisdom touched my heart deeply, as I ponder the truths you have inspired us to contemplate.
    In gratitude, Maureen

  • Patty B

    Thank you for the warning of what so easily can happen. A great reminder to self examine my motives. May His Word be “living and active” on my heart as His Words are on my lips.

  • Richie

    You are right on target, Janet. Thanks for keeping me on track. The last thing I want is to elevate myself and forget Jesus. Better yet, it is the first thing that I don’t want to happen.

  • Susan Jakelsky

    I believe that is one of the reasons why I just can’t seem to recite the Scripture to my fellow brother’s and sister’s, like I would like to do. I feel as though they are looking at me as a pharisee. I just don’t feel worthy enough to speak His Words. His Words are so powerfull to me. I want everyone that I know and love to be able to know what His Word can do for them, but I don’t feel worthy. I know God didnot give this gift of memorizing just for me, I have to be able to share His Word. We just have to pray that the Holy Spirit will lead us to open our hearts when the Spirit is leading us, not when we’re trying to do it within ourselves.

  • Chérie

    “May our devotion to obeying God’s words never be trumped by our chosen duty to memorize them”.

    Holy cow.

    I will be printing out today’s post. (DONT worry Richie, I won’t memorize it) : )

  • Vickie

    Just a thought, maybe I just haven’t got as far as most of you have in this practice of memorizing large passages of scripture, but I think the Word of God is powerful enough to accomplish His will in us and those that hear us speak it whether our motives are pure or not. I believe that sometimes our hesitancy to speak His Word to our brothers and sisters could come from the enemy trying to prevent the power of God from being revealed. God gave us His Word, not because we are worthy, but because He loves us and wants us to use it as a light, a lamp and sword. (Psalm 119:105, Ephesians 6:17.) We need to care less about what others think of us and more about sharing His Word with others. God will know and judge our hearts, and their’s, all the while His Word will not return unto Him void. It will accomplish what it was sent to do. (Isaiah 55:11) Yes, we should always let the Word work in our hearts and minds as we memorize as well as share it at each opportunity unafraid of other people’s opinions.

    • Well said Vickie, I do believe the enemy wants God’s Word stifled. Thank you for these true words. God will accomplish his will through his word.

  • Chérie

    Thank you Vickie. That was awesome.