This is equally damaging to our walk with God. Why? Because it takes the focus off of God and places it onto ourselves. The Bible says that the only righteousness we have is because of the blood of Christ. When we start to desire that man sees our good deeds then we further the distance between ourselves and God. In these verses from Matthew we see that the religious people of His day fell into this trap of pride and unfortunately today it still can infect the church. We try to help the neediest in society not because we seek the accolades of man but rather, because of the grace God has already shown us. While this prophecy addressed the service being provided in the name of the Lord, the next would hit closer to home:
"I hate all your show and pretense-- the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies. I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings. I won't even notice all your choice peace offerings. Away with your noisy hymns of praise! I will not listen to the music of your harps. Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living. -- Amos 5: 21-24 (NLT)
Despite living in relative disobedience to the basic underpinnings of the law of God, the 10 tribes still loved to have their religious ceremonies. They loved the pomp and circumstance of playing church. Dressed in their best and bragging about all they did, they would then proceed to lift up the name of God in worship. These are traps we can fall into in our own lives and the modern church. Lifting our hands up to God but not our lives. Which is true worship? God desires an uplifted life before we approach Him with uplifted hands! An uplifted life is humble before God and realizes that singing that we are a friend of God does not actually make us a friend of God. Singing about the majesty of God while not making Him Lord of our lives has to be insulting to God! Heaven forbid that our worship unto the Lord ever becomes just noisy hymns to Him! Instead we need to focus once again on righteous living and justice. Jesus also warned us about this:
"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, 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. Blind guides! You strain your water so you won't accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel! -- Matthew 23: 23-24 (NLT)
Once again when addressing the religious leaders of His day, Jesus echoes the spirit of what Amos was prophesying 700 years earlier. How many camel swallowers do we have in the modern church today? People who are quick to accommodate a legalistic spirit within themselves but operate devoid of the grace and mercy God has shown them. The haughty, super-spiritual, superior spirit that infects the modern church is exactly what Amos was prophesying about and what Jesus was warning about. Does God desire our worship? Absolutely. Does He desire our sacrifice, tithes and offerings? Absolutely. But if we would simply be obedient to His Word and seek His kingdom and righteousness first, then our worship, sacrifices and offerings would be all about Him. When our lives do not line up right, our worship, sacrifices and offerings become about us, or even worse, about our religion. The final stop on the tour of the prophecies of Amos deals with the receptivity to true prophecies:
Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent a message to Jeroboam, king of Israel: "Amos is hatching a plot against you right here on your very doorstep! What he is saying is intolerable. He is saying, "Jeroboam will soon be killed, and the people of Israel will be sent away into exile.'" Then Amaziah sent orders to Amos: "Get out of here, you prophet! Go on back to the land of Judah, and earn your living by prophesying there! Don't bother us with your prophecies here in Bethel. This is the king's sanctuary and the national place of worship!" -- Amos 7: 10-13 (NLT)
Who was Amaziah? He was the priest for King Jeroboam and the region of Bethel. He had a very important, religious role. He was the Pharisees in the days of Jesus. He can be the church today if we are not careful. Because it is too easy to begin to worship the church instead of God. That it is the church that is somehow infallible and inerrant instead of God. Look at the lengths Amaziah is going to here. He is lying about Amos hatching plots -- he was doing no such thing! The cold hard facts are that Jeroboam was killed and the people were sent into exile. God's Word is God's Word, regardless of how uncomfortable the truth might be or how it makes us feel.
That is the inherent danger for all of us in our walk before God. That we ignore the signs or warnings from God. That we convince ourselves of our own sense of importance instead of remembering that only God is important. Look at the words of Amaziah here. He is insulted that Amos would make such prophecies within the sanctuary of the King and the national place of worship! As if that matters to God! God does not care about how important we think we are. He is not a respecter of persons. But we too can adopt this religious spirit and place the church above the God it is supposed to serve. I am not suggesting consciously. But rather that we can become more enamored with the appearances than the heart. Jesus warned about this as well: