On one occasion the scribes and Pharisees asked Jesus why his disciples broke the tradition of their elders by not washing their hands before eating. Instead of answering their question, Jesus turned their attention to their hypocrisy. He replied, "And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?" The Pharisees and teachers of the law were dumbfounded, for they knew that they were guilty of sin.
The Pharisees were known for their rigid observance of the laws and regulations, and the scribes were "experts" in regard to God’s law. They were a group of people one would least expect to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy that "these people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men" (Is 29:13). Jesus, however, could easily see through their disguise. He did not hide his displeasure, but openly rebuked them.
Today, do we feel far away from God despite our regular attendance at church and daily commitment to prayer and reading the Bible? If so, then we need to examine and overhaul the way that we worship God. Do we merely pay lip service in prayer or conduct our worship to keep up appearances? Jesus said that "the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth" (Jn 4:23).
The physical acts of praying and attending church services do not constitute a meaningful worship. They need to be complemented by sincerity and obedience. If our heart is sincere we will be profoundly edified, and our worship must then translate into daily application of the Word and teachings we have received. Worship thus becomes our way of life and is not confined to the few hours we spend in church every week.
The Pharisees and teachers of the law replaced the word of God with human traditions in order to follow their own fleshly desires. Do we also invent explanations to justify our fleshly desires or disobedience? Remember that "to obey is better than sacrifice." Don’t be deceived: if our life and deeds do not conform to the requirements of God, our worship is in vain.
With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:6-8)