The Most Subversive Idea in the Bible?

Richard Beck nominates Isaiah 53:12 as containing the most subversive idea in the Bible.

I mean, can any church or Christian ever be smug, safe, contented, moralistic or self-satisfied in light of Isaiah 53.12? Just when the dust settles Isaiah 53.12 comes along, taps you on the shoulder and says, “By the way, God is over there. Yes, with those people.”

I enjoy the thinking behind this, but it’s not the most subversive idea in the Bible. Not by a longshot. The most subversive idea in the Bible is that God doesn’t care about rituals. Let’s take a look at Matthew 6:5-8, shall we?

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

I submit to you that this flies in the face of the prior tens of thousands of years of human existence. Our first inkling that humans were religious tens of thosands of years ago is the practice of ceremonial burial. From then on, the practice of religion was characterized as a communal, public activity. Public sacrifices. Public prayers. Public feast days. Public activities.

Jesus is basically saying here: No, that’s not it at all. Hypocrites pray in public so people think they’re righteous. People do good things in public so people will think they are good. Don’t brag about your good deeds. Don’t brag about your love of God. Just do good deeds. Just love God.

[Continue reading at A Practical Heretic]

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