This people draws near to me with their mouth, and honors me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
Formality is always imperilling piety. The representation of religious truths in ritual and ceremonial is a necessary condescension to the weakness of men, who want material aid in their effort to grasp spiritual things. But material things have a constant tendency to enslave men. And the enslaving work is done with so much subtlety that many a man who is a slave to his rituals, and to his rules, thinks himself to be a free man today. But, worse than that, and the thing that so much distressed our Lord, when a man knows that all his spiritual religion is gone, he will keep up his ritual, and be more exact in obeying his rules, and try to persuade himself that "formality" will do instead of "spirituality." Then the searching Lord pleads, "This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me."
I. RELIGION IS EXPRESSION. We ought to "draw nigh unto God with our mouth, and to honour him with our lip." Religion is holy worship, wise ordering of conduct, bearing honourable responsibilities, taking part in Christian activities, bringing the body into subjection. No man can wisely or safely restrain the expression of religion. A faith which says nothing is no real faith. A love that does nothing is no real love. If there is life in the seed, the blade will appear above the soil. Secret religion is self-delusion. If a man is religious, it will get expression in his life and relations.
II. RELIGION IS FEELING. It is something that can get expression. It is a state of mind and heart. It is a spiritual relationship with the Divine Spirit, into which man, the spirit, has been brought. It is the quickening of the soul's love, and setting it wholly on God. It is the redirection of the soul's trust, and fixing it on God. It is the sanctifying of the soul's will unto the choice of God's will. "The kingdom of God is within you." Piety is a soul affair. Religion is the expression of piety in conduct and relation.
III. SINCERITY IS THE RIGHT RELATION BETWEEN FEELING AND EXPRESSION. Sincerity Christ asked for. Insincerity Christ denounced. Sincerity psalmists prayed for and prophets pleaded for. Weakness, incompleteness, failure, can be patiently borne; insincerity cannot be borne; nothing can be done with it. To a man's own self he must be true. To his fellow men he must be true. To God he must be true. A man must say, by lip and act, what he feels, and only what he feels. The vice of modern external religion is its utterance of more and better things than are really in men's hearts. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.