Devotionals Daily: A Year with Jesus

From A Jane Austen Devotional

APPEARING RELIGIOUS

Mr. Collins was not a sensible man, and the deficiency of nature had been but little assisted by education or society; the greatest part of his life having been spent under the guidance of an illiterate and miserly father; and though he belonged to one of the universities, he had merely kept the necessary terms, without forming at it any useful acquaintance. The subjection in which his father had brought him up had given him originally great humility of manner, but it was now a good deal counteracted by the self-conceit of a weak head, living in retirement, and the consequential feelings of early and unexpected prosperity. A fortunate chance had recommended him to Lady Catherine de Bourgh when the living of Hunsford was vacant; and the respect which he felt for her high rank and his veneration for her as his patroness, mingling with a very good opinion of himself, of his authority as a clergyman, and his rights as a rector, made him altogether a mixture of pride and obsequiousness, self-importance and humility.

Having now a good house and very sufficient income, he intended to marry; and in seeking a reconciliation with the Longbourn family he had a wife in view, as he meant to choose one of the daughters, if he found them as handsome and amiable as they were represented by common report. This was his plan of amends—of atonement—for inheriting their father’s estate; and he thought it an excellent one, full of eligibility and suitableness, and excessively generous and disinterested on his own part.

-From Pride and Prejudice

For Mr. Collins, the primary job of a rector is to say what he thinks everyone around him wants to hear. He is conceited, consumed by his image, and intent on impressing others—most of all his patroness, the Lady Catherine de Bourgh. But worst of all, he completely lacks the ability or desire to shepherd his congregants toward godliness.

Does this kind of religious hypocrisy sound familiar? It should. Mr. Collins’s attitude is nearly identical to that of the New Testament Pharisees, who also adhered to a strict moral code but were mostly concerned with religious performance— both theirs and others’.

It is quite telling that the Greek word used in Luke’s gospel for hypocrisy was a way to describe an actor’s performance in a play. Similarly, religious hypocrites like Mr. Collins and the Pharisees approach their duties as actors approach a script: motivated by a burning need for approval, they are obsessed with appearing religious.

This explains why the Pharisees were so dumbfounded by Jesus, who “came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). The simplicity—the very others-centeredness—of Jesus’ message does not fit their standard, and they feel threatened. As with anyone who chooses religion over following Jesus, their obsession with performance lets them avoid their own brokenness. They completely miss the point of close relationship with Christ.

Don’t be like Mr. Collins or the Pharisees, who needed people to respect them more than they wanted to please God. Make the test of your heart-decisions be whether God approves, regardless of what others might say.

“Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” --Galatians 1:10 NIV

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