I call it punch-clock faith. The idea that we clock in and out of our faith. We put in required time going to church, or praying or reading the bible, but once we are done we go about doing whatever we want.
Routines and ritual can be a good thing. They can help us establish health lifestyles, healthy practices, and create space in our lives for important things. There is however a flip side to them. They can lead us down a path of complacency. They can eat away at the very core of why we do something in the first place. My thoughts immediately went to our Sunday services. How many times and how many people come on a Sunday out of routine and ritual because it is their "sacrifice" to God. It is their offering.
This week I was reading in Isaiah (again, I know), and I am always struck by
"When you enter my presence,
do you actually think I want this—
animals trampling on my courtyards?
Do not bring any more meaningless offerings;
I consider your incense detestable![ag]
You observe new moon festivals, Sabbaths, and convocations,
but I cannot tolerate sin-stained celebrations!
I hate your new moon festivals and assemblies;
they are a burden
that I am tired of carrying.
When you spread out your hands in prayer,
I look the other way;
when you offer your many prayers,
I do not listen,
because your hands are covered with blood!"
Here we see that the Israelites are offering the needed sacrifices that they have been commanded to. They are attempting to fulfill their obligations to worship and honour God in this. However, what we see in the verses that follow this passage is that God is not accepting their sacrifices and prayers because they are neglecting to live out their calling and be a people of justice and mercy. They were the punch-clock faithful, who put in what was required and then clocked back out to resume doing whatever they wanted. I know this has been true and my life and I think it is for us all. The challenge we have before us is to take hold of the fact that our entire life, our entire being belongs to Jesus. That we are called to carry out what is described in verse 17:
"Learn to do what is right.
Give the oppressed reason to celebrate.
Take up the cause of the orphan.
Defend the rights of the widow."
I want to be someone know as a defender of widows, someone who gives the downcast reason to celebrate. I want to to stop looking at the clock and live a life filled with what God has in store. Who's in?