Keeping up appearances is a symptom of heart-and-mouth disease

Saturday, June 13, 2009

I know about a half-dozen families that are currently lounging on some beach somewhere. Instead of getting the occasional postcard of a pink flamingo wearing oversized sunglasses holding a "wish you were" banner, thanks to Facebook I am getting a moment-by-moment update of sand and surf conditions. Lounging in Missouri, I find myself longing for the beach. I am divided. My actions are here and my responsibilities are here, but my mind is on a beach somewhere.

Jesus' divine nature gave him the ability to read people's hearts and motives. He could easily read between the lines of what was being said and what was being held back. He understood what people were really thinking beyond what they were saying.

On one occasion when being questioned by the religious leaders of the day as to why his disciples did not place a high priority on tradition as the religious leaders did, true to form, he saw through to their motives. Quoting the prophet Isaiah, he said, "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me." The great physician diagnosed their heart-and-mouth disease.

The core of heart-and-mouth disease is the keeping up of religious appearances over the challenging work of heart change. I feel it's safe to say that Jesus was opposed to juggling flaming poodles. What I mean is that he was opposed to religious activity for the sake of religious activity. Religious activity is meant to add value to spiritual growth and experience, not to bind people to the rule of activity and, in the process, destroy the soul.

This is the essence of what he said to this group of religious leaders that day: "Your religious activity is actually keeping you from being in a living relationship with God. You would rather juggle flaming poodles than strive to enter a heart-transforming relationship with the Almighty Lord."

The primary casualty of heart-and-mouth disease is joy. Keeping up religious appearances and religious activity will drain the joy not only out of your life but the lives of those around you. Jesus himself stated that he came to give abundant life, while the things not of God are what destroy life. Getting the heart and mouth, actions and words, in sync is what God desires. He wants your service to come from your heart, not a sense of guilt or duty.

Rob Hurtgen is a husband, father, minister and writer. Read more at

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