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September 15, 1995

Empty Religion

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[H]e deceives himself and his religion is worthless. JAMES 1:26
Each of us has a religion—a system of beliefs that pulls together our view of God, our understanding of ourselves, and our approach to living. A friend says that his religion is bass fishing. That sounds a bit strange, but anything is possible.
The question is not whether you have a religion, but, rather, what is that religion really made of? What is your view of God and where did you get it? Is it autobiographical? Is God simply a magnified image of yourself or someone you know? Is your understanding of God a compilation of movies, sermons, novels, and bedtime stories? Your view of God, your understanding and acceptance of yourself, and your approach to living are three threads that weave into the fabric of your religion.
Your religion will show up in the way you spend your time. It will evidence itself in the kind of decisions that you make at work, in the way you view and treat other people, in the way you handle money, in the way you treat people who wrong you, and in the way you maintain self-control. If your religion is based on truth, it will be revealed in the way you look for the best in others, the way you deal with authority figures, and the way you deliver excellence every day on the job, and the way you refrain from griping and complaining.
What is the core of your religion? Is it, as James puts it, “worthless”? Another translation of this word is “empty.” Think of a nut, perhaps a pecan that, when it is cracked open, has nothing inside. The pecan was only an empty shell. It’s the same way with a person whose religion is empty. All the external trappings are there, but there is no substance to his or her relationship with God. Strive to build and display a religion that is substantive and authentic.

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