They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to false gods.
For they have committed adultery, and blood is on their hands. Thus they have committed adultery with their idols and even caused their sons, whom they bore to Me, to pass through the fire to them as food.
So the scribe said to Him, 'Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.'
Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, 'You are not far from the kingdom of God.'
The Jews were into sacrifice, and God had a purpose for it. But their leaders expanded the rules and reduced the reason. Jesus responded:
'Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe... and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!' (Matthew 23:23-24).
What's the gnat? A rule violated. What's the camel? A big sin. Like forgetting God's primary commandments: to love Him first and our neighbor second. It's a giant swallow of sin that leaves us hungry for more. Such as?
1) Idol worship: Our hunger for celebrity, money, possessions and power is idol worship. Jesus says, 'No man can serve two masters' (Matthew 6:24). The unacceptable sacrifice? Your relationship with God. 'You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord's table and of the table of demons' (1 Corinthians 10:21).
2) Fornication: In America, 48% of all first births occur out of wedlock. S_x out of wedlock is called fornication, and the media is obsessed with it. The unacceptable sacrifice? Your relationship with God. 'It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God' (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5).
3) Human sacrifice: Since the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade in 1973, over 53 million abortions have been performed in the U.S. alone. A woman's 'right to choose' a convenient abortion over an inconvenient adoption has made the Old Testament pagans our new age role models. Because 'They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to false gods' (Psalm 106:37). Don't we?
By focusing on rule-following instead of God-following, sectarianism within the Christian church has fostered the same unacceptable sacrifice Jesus came to redeem: the sacrifice of our relationship with God.
By focusing on gnats instead of camels or specks instead of beams, sectarianism distracts us. Earth's 2.18 billion Christians must refocus on Jesus. Only then will gnats disappear, camels lie down, specks fall off and beams be lifted.
To Be Continued...
P.S. To read the other devotions in this series, please see the Sectarianism series.