I have often come across Christians who justify their absenteeism from Church and religious disciplines with a classic excuse. Their justification is that they don’t want to associate with ‘certain hypocrites’ that they see in Church whom they abhor. This is most certainly an excuse for not exercising one’s Christian disciplines and if I may add, a silly one.
To such ‘excuse wielding, absentee Christians’ whose non participation they ‘justify’ by what they consider hypocritical behaviour, Jesus gives a perfect reply. His solution is not to absent oneself from Christian duties but to do exactly the opposite of what they see in others and disapprove.
The Jews at the time of Jesus were ‘self-righteous’ not righteous and it is their self-righteous actions that Jesus does not want us to imitate. Jesus exposes the behaviour of the Jewish leaders not merely for our information, but for our transformation. These disciplines of transformation are seen in three works which have now become expressions of Christian discipline, especially during the season of Lent.
Interestingly, the three disciplines of almsgiving, prayer and fasting are not limited to the Lenten season, but are given as a daily expression of our faith. Jesus does not give these to us as an option; but as a way of life for a Christian. The words are not ‘if’ you fast, or pray or give alms but WHEN you fast, WHEN you pray, WHEN you give alms. Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are daily and necessary works of piety for every Christian.
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