What? Does God really hate religion? Well, if we were to do a survey of scripture, it would become clear it is the one thing that God hates above all others. God hates religion… or at least in the way it has been predominately defined throughout history. For those who associate God with religion, this can be confusing. I’ll explain.
Our English word was derived from the Latin word religo, meaning “bind up.” So the question is does God want His people bound up in rules, regulations and ritualistic patterns? The answer is absolutely not. Modern religion is oppressive control attempting to bind something good to anything that is not. Mark 10:18 makes it clear that no one is good except for God. When we take God “the only Good” and tie it to anything else like effort, works, human rules, etc. we “crush people with unbearable religious demands." Matthew 23:4 NLT
Christianity was never meant to be a religion but rather this incredible relationship: a spiritual life that is the result of the risen Christ in the heart of His people. That’s why people will often hear believers saying things like, “Christianity is a relationship, not a religion.”
Religion, the kind that leads to bondage, has a horrific byproduct as well. This side-effect can be absolutely devastating to the children of God. It’s called legalism. Legalism is the dangerous belief that a person can, by his or her own efforts, do something to obtain or retain his or her salvation.
In Matthew 23, Jesus erupts and opens a huge can of whoop on the religious leaders peddling legalism. In this passage Jesus outlines a handful of things He hated that the religious leaders were doing, and the effects it was having on His people. Have you ever been caught in any of these traps?
1. Legalism - Placing burdens on people and refusing to do nothing to help them.
2. Piety – Personal acts of religion with the only motive to be seen by others.
3. The desire to be recognized and rewarded publically for acts of religion.
4. Customized faith - Living with loopholes and hypocrisies so as to rationalize cherished sins (specifically money). Matthew 23:16-22
5. Wrong focus - Attention on the minor things and therefore forgetting what is most important. Matthew 23:23
6. Living to look righteous - while never doing anything that is really righteous.
7. Make a show - how much you know, or have of the Bible so as to belittle and control others. Matthew 23:29–31