Jesus Was Not Religious

jesusI’ve said before that the problem with religion is that it’s easier than following Jesus.  It is usually a given that something is wrong with us, wrong with the world, perhaps critically or else just a little off, but most people agree that something must be done because all is not right in the world as it is.  Religion, in most cases, offers us the chance to do something.  If we read the right book, say the right things, act right, talk right and treat each others the right way we can “fix” what is wrong.  Religion, as such, is worthless.  But what could I mean that Jesus was not religious?

The religious leaders of his day were the Pharisees, and a careful reading of the Gospels shows that Jesus never really had much good to say about them.  He was always willing to share with anyone seeking to understand the truth (i.e. Nicodemus), but as a group Jesus was most likely to call them hypocrites, false teachers, spiritually blind, and sometimes worse.  The Pharisees were the ruling sect of Judaism, and had studied the Law and Prophets well.  But they were sort of like lawyers of their religion.  God had given Moses the Law, certainly, but it was in order to teach people what God was like.  What kind of God would give a command for his people not to kill each other?  Jesus condemned the Pharisees for keeping the letter of the Law but not the spirit of the Law.  They were so legalistic they had missed God.  He reminded them on one occasion that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.  The religious leaders were very religious, but were not teaching the people how to find God.  They were pushing the rules, like first century hall monitors. 

Jerusalem was the religious capital of the Jewish world, but Jesus is seldom there.  It is debatable how much time he spent in Jerusalem (we know he entered the temple on occasion, and certainly attended all the required – and some optional – Jewish festivals) but most of the Gospel stories take place on a mountain somewhere, in the wilderness, on the Sea of Galilee, in some tax collectors home, in a cemetery, or else in Samaria of all places.  Jesus went up to Jerusalem from time to time, but those were usually not happy visits. 

If Jesus had been interested in religion, he would spent a lot of time in the Jerusalem temple.  The Pharisees would have all been his pals.  Jesus was not interested in religion, nor how religious a person could be.  He wanted people to know that God wanted a relationship with his people.  Jesus said that God’s people would worship Him in spirit and in truth, not on this mountain or in that temple.  Jesus turned the religious world of the Pharisees upside down with his sermon on the mount.  He challenged their notions about tithing with his observation of the widow’s mite.  Jesus broke the Sabbath laws, ate without washing his hands, and had disciples that did not fast.  But he knew more about God than the Pharisees had learned in 4,000 years. 

The goal of the Christian should be to become more Christ-like.  There are plenty of religous Christians out there, I know this.  Sometimes they make all of us look bad.  But religion is worthless; Christ is of utmost worth.  Read the Gospels.  Study the parables.  Listen to what Jesus is telling us, and strive to have the mind that he had.  He lowered himself in humility to become not only a human being, but one that was obidient even unto death.  All so that we could know God.  If we have seen Jesus, we have seen God.  Are we trying to see Jesus? 

It’s not about what we do, it’s about what Jesus has already done.  That’s the Gospel message.  This is the good news.  Have you shared the good news lately?  Do you give a dollar (or ten) to the beggar on the sidewalk, or just feel glad when you walk by that you’re not in his place?  The Pharisee thanked God that he was not the tax collector, you know, the one who fell on his face and asked God for mercy.  Guess who Jesus said was righteous.  Do you walk into a room and pick out who’s going to hell, or make sure that every person you meet knows how to get to heaven? 

Jesus was not religious.  He was in a relationship with God the Father, and wanted the same for us. 

If we have the heart of Jesus, we will not be religious either.  If we do what Jesus would do, we will spend time in prayer because we seek after God and desire to be filled with his spirit.  We will read the Bible to learn of his tender mercies.  We will tell others the good news of Jesus Christ.  We will tithe – and give – to our local church, charitable organizations, and to missions.  Not in order to be religious; because we are seeking after God and his righteousness.  There are a lot of good religions out there.  There is only one Way, Truth and Life.

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19 thoughts on “Jesus Was Not Religious

  1. Thanks for such a truthful article. We just need to be Christ like and do the things he told us to do.

    Religion really is very dangerous and misleading.

    God Bless

  2. Um, I’m not sure I agree. The conclusion is fine, but Jesus not being religious? He was a first century Jew! Even a non religious first century Jew is extremely religious by modern American standards. “Spirit of the Law” does not mean absence of the letter. It usually means going beyond it. Jesus told the people to keep the law that required them to carry the pack of a Roman soldier, and then to go the “extra mile.”

    Religion is NOT dangerous or misleading. PEOPLE are. ALL people are. Except for one. Religion that is true, the Bible describes in James 1:27 – taking care of the poor and the oppressed. There is nothing wrong with this.

    Now all that having been said, the point being made is great: we should do the acts of a Christian life because of the relationship with God, and not in order to be religious. But to an outsider, you are still doing religion. Your heart may be pure in the matter, but that doesn’t make the religious elements automatically disappear, and people can’t literally see our hearts from the outside. Only through our actions can they truly see inside. I like to believe that it was this purity of heart and purpose that flows from right relationship with the Father was the reason that many religious practices were invented in the fist place.

    I think the problem comes through religion devoid of the spirit of God, not just from the fact that religious practice is implemented at all. I have found many of them helpful for focusing my heart on things above and I use them regularly.

    Jesus did use religious practice. He did spend time in Jerusalem. He didn’t live there, but even as a boy he went for the annual visit. I feel like too many times as Christians we are quick to puff out our chests and proclaim, “Look at us! We’re NOT religious!” when in truth, people hear that and see us going to church every Sunday. I think what we really mean to say is not that we have an absence of religious practice, but that our hearts in the matter are pure. Kind of an awkward thing to brag about. Because if it was really true, we wouldn’t need to proclaim it. They would see it. Jesus may have deplored the false religion of others, but he never bragged about his own lack of it.

  3. I was going for the play on words. Religion is what we do to be right with God, the Gospel is about what Jesus has already done.

    Jesus was certainly an observant Jew. He was circumsied when he was seven days old, and returned to the temple in Jerusalem many times. He kept the Passover, and possibly observed even the historical Jewish festivals in addition to the religious ones. It is our concept of religion that I wished to challange. I also linked to my essay The Problem with Religion in this post, in which I argue that the problem with religion is that it’s easier than following Jesus. I think we do agree; the problem with the written word is that it’s difficult to imply tone.

  4. As we know the religious leaders of the time of Christ were the reason for his death, and we know this also fulfilled the prophecy.Having said this, though Jesus spoke in “Their” Synagogue’s His new Church had no walls,It seems Man has been the inventor of Religion and Jesus had to dispute their corruption.By the use of religion’s became division, and then the Great divider has put a wedge between the Christian body,As far as going to church and non believers seeing this action? well i do agree we must be schooled,we should be going to learn and be fed by the word of God. Good write thank you! Peace.

  5. I Agree, Jesus was not and is not religious.

    I am non religious, not athiest, not new age, Just
    non religious.

    I also concider myself Christian, Only in the fact that I follow Jesus.

    Keep up the good work, I look forward to reading more.

  6. For the first time in my life I have read some sense on a matter of religion. May the Lord give you many years to continue such.

  7. God is bringing many different persons who have never met, to exactly the same conclusions.

    The words, tone, flow etc may be different – but the message is the same. Another voice in the growing chorus is http://www.godhatesreligion.org.au .

    It remains a startling spiritual phenomenon that religionists and their followers are unable to correctly define religion or the gospel (2 Cor 4:4).

    See Greg Gilbert’s great book “What is the Gospel?”

  8. I admire this. Jesus was Not religious at all. He is A king, and the Only Message Jesus preached was about the Kingdom of God. A KIngdom is a government with a Domain, not a Religion. He never preached about his Blood or dieing on the cross, but dieing for our sins was a means, so that we can enter into the Kingdom Of heaven.

  9. jesus wasnt religious,and much of what you say is true…..but to tithe or to be charitable is to give to the true church ,people in need anywhere ,everywhere,anybody.

  10. jesus wasn’t a religious follower ,yet he is a religion-define religion,to believe in god….,….he came to fulfill the law………..man divided the word,religion and made many religions or many gods and ways to him.

  11. Being a “religious person” usually refers to all the things we do. One can tithe, or even give everything away, and not be in God’s will. Anaias and Sophira sold their property, gave to the Apostles, and were struck dead. Their sin was in their motivation, which was to be patted on the back and celebrated for their giving. God loves a cheerful giver; if you grumbled while placing your tithe in the plate you should just keep that money. If you give to the church as an expression of faith, out of love, then it will bless you and others.

  12. Which is the most important?
    Jesus was asked twice, by two different men, the same basic question about which is the most important or greatest commandment in the Law. Here is how Jesus answered that question:

    #1
    “One of the teachers of the law… asked him [Jesus],
    ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’

    “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “ is this: ‘Hear, of Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than THESE.” [Mark 12:28-31, Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Leviticus 19:18]

    #2
    …an expert in the law, tested him [Jesus] with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’”

    Jesus replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these TWO commandments.” [Matthew 22:36-40, Deuteronomy 6:5, Leviticus 19:18]

    But in contrast with Jesus, Paul the Pharisee didn’t know the greatest, most important, first commandment according to Jesus. Paul made up his own rule. Paul wrote:
    “The entire law is summed up in a SINGLE command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” [Galatians 5:14, Leviticus 19:18]

    And again, Paul wrote:
    “He who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not covet, and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this ONE RULE: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” [Romans 13:8-10, Leviticus 19:18]

    Jesus said it’s TWO commandments, with the greatest, most important, first command to
    .1) first, love God with everything you’ve got, and
    .2) second, love people.
    Paul said no, it ONE commandment- to love people.

    This is very similar to The Beatles- “All you need is love. Love is all you need. Love, Love, Love.” (In other words, the second commandment, the love of man, without the love of God. Love as me, myself and I define love to be, and continuously redefined by sinful men.)

    In essence, it is also the same principle as what Eve did in the Garden of Eden, forgetting about the Tree of Life, which is the first tree in the middle of the Garden, and instead referring to the second tree as “the tree that is in the middle of the garden.” [Genesis 3:3 & 2:9 2:17, 3:24]

    Kind of like the Pharisees with Jesus, who were pushing the false idea that we can consider ONE commandment in the Law, alone in isolation, to be “the greatest commandment in the Law.”

    Or like today, false teachers in the Chrislam – Purpose Driven – Seeker Sensitive – Emergent – Liberal – Ecumenical – New Age – world church movement pushing the false idea that the ONE RULE is “Loving God and Neighbor together.”

    The Lord God Jesus the Jewish Messiah, Son of Yahweh the Most High God of Israel, said:
    “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these TWO commandments.”
    Not one. TWO.

    Sometimes, Paul was wrong. Jesus is always right. I’m following Jesus.

    Here are answers to 2 common objections:
    .a) What about the so-called “Golden Rule”?
    Jesus spoke the 3 chapters of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7, including 7:12. Jesus didn’t make PART of this one verse out of context into “The Golden Rule” or “one rule.” Jesus did not use the term “Golden Rule,” it’s simply a tradition of men. The sentence begins with “So” in the NIV and Amplified Bibles, and “Therefore’ in the NASB and King James Bibles, which ties 7:12 to the previous sentences. So 7:12 cannot stand alone as One Commandment.

    .b) What about the so-called “Great Commission”?
    Jesus spoke the words recorded in Matthew 28:18-20, including “make disciples of all nations.” Jesus never used the term “Great Commission,” it’s simply a tradition of men. Yes I agree it’s a commandment given by Jesus, it’s not optional, and it applies to us today. We need to carry this out, with our own God-given abilities and talents, using the skills, and circumstances we have. But we don’t need to put words in the mouth of Jesus, we can let Jesus speak for himself, and we can listen to Him – and obey Him.

    Evangelism is part of the Second Commandment given by Jesus, to Love people. Evangelism is not the most important commandment, and it isn’t the entire Second Commandment. So if our priorities are “The Great Commission and the Great Commandment,” we have our priorities upside down and confused, and we are not listening to the voice of Jesus. Never mind what Paul said. Let’s listen to the voice of Jesus first, and get our priorities straight.

    The people who will protest most loudly against this truth are the modern “Pauls:” traveling evangelists, speakers, writers, abusive absentee mega-church pastors, Crusaders, and self-appointed “apostles” like Paul, who find it “profitable” to “be like Paul” rather than follow Jesus the Jewish Messiah.

  13. @ Matthew Perri: The original post was about religion vs. relationship. What Jesus had with the Father was a relationship and God the Father desires the same for each of his children. Your response was a 500 word treatise on which commandments to follow.

    I never mentioned Paul once (which is odd quite frankly). While I understand your efforts to read, study and follow Jesus, the Apostle Paul wrote half of the New Testament. Very few Christian believers will get in the “don’t read the Bible” boat with you. Paul’s greatest desire for his ministry was for people to know Jesus. He determined among the Corinthians to “know nothing but Christ and him crucified.” Although he was a Pharisee and a Roman, and very well educated as such, he counted everything else as rubbish and preached Jesus as the only thing in which we can boast.

  14. That Jewish religion, Judaism, promised a messiah (Hebrew word meaning “anointed one” which is Christ in Greek). During his lifetime Jesus was an observant Jew, but look at the many conflicts he had the Pharisees, the Jewish religious rulers of his time. Jesus said they kept the letter of the law but missed spirit of the law. It is clear from his Sermon on the Mount that the Jewish religion had been misunderstood and administered poorly by those who were supposed to represent God.

    “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” (Hebrews 1:1-2 ESV)

    Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and Prophets. Only through him can we come to God the Heavenly Father.

    Religion is about what we do, the Gospel is about what God has already done.

  15. I’m working on a book right now that talks about this very subject-about how Jesus never meant for the religion of Christianity to be formed. There is no reason to think that Jesus was for the concept of religion, despite being raised under one.

    To the average human, religion is perceived as man’s social structures regarding beliefs in God. Jesus’s approach was to establish the existence of God as the undeniable truth. Jesus probably knew that he was incapable of eradicating atheism, but he also knew that he could present the truth of God to those that had true faith in who he said he was.

    The existence of religion is a sign of both man’s lack of faith that God is undoubtedly real and of man’s insistence that the best way to handle sin is to form a social dichotomy between our sinful lives and our expectation to please God. In most of the Western world especially, this dichotomy is seen as being required for mankind to function. Religion in America is pretty much accepted as an “on your own time” institution. Even if you insist your life is built around Jesus, you probably are convinced your job is vital to your existence as well. But people rarely refuse to do what their boss asks on grounds of it conflicting with Christ, yet they still justify it as being what Christ wants, for it ensures their livelihood and feeds their family, amongst other things.

    Religion is for people who don’t truly believe that God alone is all we need. This is clearly a lack of faith in God. Christianity has become a religion for people who feel they need both Jesus AND the real world in their lives, when Jesus clearly said we only needed him. I am baffled as to why people don’t get that Jesus didn’t want his followers to play the religion game-he simply wanted them to try as hard as they could to live like him, accept that they would fall short, and have assurance that it was perfectly fine to fall short, for man was made right with God at the cross. Look today at how Christianity is being dragged into the Jew vs Muslim religious battle. Jesus wouldn’t be forming an army to fight with one of the sides; he’d still be doing what he always did, walking around the Middle East gaining followers and helping the poor.

    As far as his status as an observing Jew, I feel people often forget that the key is that he was born and raised a religious Jew, not one because he was picking the correct religion. Jesus praised his Father while on Earth, but he clearly wanted no affiliation with the religious Jews of the time. We can only conclude that today in America, he wouldn’t want any affiliation with religious Christians either. It is my believe that Jesus wants his believers- God’s children- to simply stop doubting God’s existence, stop having weak faith and simply do what he taught us, and stop using the veil of the Christian religion as justification for participation in a social order constructed from man’s unstoppable desire to sin.

    Excellent piece Clark, I hope you’ll be fine with me quoting you in my work.

  16. You are welcome to use anything from this blog that I have written, provided you give credit.

    Religion in and of itself is worthless. Christianity is an organized religion and at its worst can be as bad as any other. Having said that, I do identify myself as Christian. I am an ordained minister and pastor a church. I attempt to lead a congregation to read the scripture, put more stock in the Bible’s word than in mine, and be conformed to the image of Christ. Just to be clear.

  17. Jesus was , is, and forever will be God….Is God a catholic? Is God Jewish? God ( Jesus )chose to implant himself into the womb of a Jewish Maiden not because He was Jewish, but because she was Jewish… actually an Israelite to be precise…He had no biological Jewish father and likewise had no biologically Jewish mother…Mary was more of an incubator than a mother..Jesus created Jewish biology outside of himself and chose to nurture Israel outside of himself, He created all things,e everything in existence…His choosing to enter into the world as a miraculously contrived non biological conception is proof that he was nether Jewish, nor Israelite nor any religion…He was ,is and always will be that which He is was and always will be… the great I AM..God Almighty……He humbled himself and allowed his chosen family to bring him up as an Israelite not because he was Jewish himself but because his chosen adopted parents were… The writer of this article is 100% correct Jesus ( God) is 100% not religious and neither are his true followers…He came to save us from religion, ALL religions….they belong to Satan as Babylon the Great.. so get out of her and give Satan’s things back to Satan and give God’s things to God ..Amen

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