"I've had it with you! You're hopeless, you Pharisees! Frauds! You keep meticulous account books, tithing every nickel and dime you get, but manage to find loopholes for getting around basic matters of justice and God's love. Careful bookkeeping is commendable but basics are required." Luke 11:42 (The Message).
Jesus' perspective on what is important to God is very different from ours. Every man-made religion considers what we do more important than what we are. The gods of human imagination always require rule-keeping and rituals as the way to gain the god's favour and get what we want.
Does it really matter who or what we worship as long as we worship something? It is in the basic nature of humans to worship and to pray. We are incomplete without allegiance to a higher power. To many people, sincerity is the most important ingredient in our worship. "It doesn't matter who you worship, as long as you are sincere." they say.
This is flawed thinking because every action in life has consequences. It does matter who or what we worship because we become like the thing we worship. What we embrace as the source of our life we embrace as what we value and where we end.
The tragedy about the gods of human imagination is that they inevitably reflect the worst of human nature; cruel, heartless, demanding, unpredictable and unstable. Worst of all is that they do not exist but are the deception of demons to entice us to worship Satan.
Whether people bow down to idols of wood or stone or some invisible 'god' some human being told them to worship, the outcome is the same - behaviour that says one thing but hearts that are still rotten to the core.
What is God's remedy for this terrible dead end? A heart transplant. "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you..." Ezekiel 36:26,27a (NIV). Can God make good on His word? Yes! The evidence of a changed heart is a changed disposition.
Jesus' quarrel with the Pharisees was that their religion was a cover-up for greed and wickedness and the people thought they were 'holy'! They lived double lives, hypocrites playing to the crowd, but underneath they were worse than the tax-collectors, prostitutes and 'sinners' whom they despised.
Jesus was more comfortable with the outcasts because they had no reason to pretend. God cannot do anything for 'holy' people, those whose religious cloak keeps Him out. He is near to those who know they cannot pretend with Him. He can change the hearts of those who know their need but He can do nothing for those who think they are okay. No matter what the barrier is between us and the only true God, only one thing will give us access to Him - to admit that we were deceived and to believe what He says.