There is no greater mistake a player can make then to score on the wrong goal! Here’s how a National Hockey League player named Mike Smith scored an “own goal.”
The Phoenix Coyotes took on the Buffalo Sabres on October 19, 2013 at the First Niagara Center. Sixty minutes of regulation couldn’t produce a winner so both teams went into an overtime period to award the extra point. Then things got weird. The puck went up into the air and fell into goaltender Mike Smith’s pads. He slid on his knees to get back into position but slid a little bit too far. He ended up carrying the puck over the line, which counted as a goal for the Sabres. After some confusion by the referees and the broadcasting crew, a review of the play awarded a goal to Buffalo. The game ended 2-1 in favor of the Sabres.
How could anyone ever get so mixed up that they actually score on the wrong goal? Well, Jesus had to deal with this issue in Luke 11:39. Jesus shocked this Pharisee who invited him to dinner because he didn’t follow the cultural practices of the day. According to Luke 11:44 there’s a lot more than just cultural practices at stake in this passage from the Bible.
Playing for the wrong team
Before this dinner meeting is over with, Jesus makes it clear that this Pharisee is playing for the wrong team. How is it possible that a religious leader who’s invested his entire life in studying the Bible can get this wrong? Here’s an even scarier question – is it possible that we are trying to score on the wrong goal with our church rules? Is it possible, that you and I are doing the exact same thing that this Pharisee did to Jesus?
I think any time we trade rules for a relationship with Jesus we start moving the puck towards the wrong goal. The danger is that it’s really easy to observe rules whether or not somebody is following the rules. It’s a lot harder to see what’s happening in their heart – with their relationships. Maybe that’s why this Pharisee was more concerned about following the rules of religion then a relationship with God.
Don’t get me wrong, the rules are important. God creates rules – we call them commandments. Maybe you’ve heard of his top 10 – the 10 Commandments. God never intended for following the rules – even perfectly following the 10 Commandments – to replace a relationship with him. The relationship always comes first – the rules always comes second.
Scoring on the wrong goal
When we start focusing more on the way people dress in church than what’s happening in their heart we’ve started moving the puck towards the wrong goal. When we are more concerned with the outward appearance then what’s happening in their soul, we’ve done exactly what Jesus describes in Luke 11:39.
When church people argue about which translation of the Bible to use, we start moving the puck towards the wrong goal. Isn’t the whole purpose of an English translation to help people understand the Bible in their own language? Why on earth would we argue about which translation will help them understand the God who inspired that word?
Why God hates religion
The whole topic that Jesus deals with in Luke 11 is the idea of hypocrisy! A hypocrite is someone who says they believe but doesn’t show they believe in Jesus. This chapter describes somebody who is more concerned about the actions then what’s happening inside the heart. I don’t think you can miss how dangerous hypocrisy is. This Pharisee was a full-blown hypocrite and didn’t even know it. He couldn’t see it until Jesus pointed it out. Following the religious rules leads to Hell – a personal relationship with Jesus leads to Heaven.
You hear language from Jesus in Luke 11:52 that you don’t find anywhere else in the Bible. Jesus is on the offensive. Jesus is just plain angry by this religious hypocrisy. Since Jesus is the ultimate expression of God’s heart- you can’t miss the fact that God hates hypocrisy. I would take the statement a step further and say God hates all religious practices separated from a right relationship. In other words, God hates religion when it comes between you and a relationship with him!
The reason why God hates religion, like Jesus attacks the religious hypocrite in this passage, is because it makes this harder for someone to get into Heaven. Jesus came to make our burdens light but this religious hypocrite tried to make it harder for people to get into Heaven (Matthew 11:30). In the process, this Pharisee ended up playing for the wrong team and scoring on his “own goal.” God forbid that you and I ever put rules before someone’s relationship with Jesus! Get your relationship with Jesus right… And the Holy Spirit will teach you how to follow the rules.