Don’t Become Inoculated by the Empty Calories of Religion

Good food should be filling. It should provide nutrition and a good balance of what the body needs. When we fill up with balanced and healthy food, we don’t get that hungry, empty feeling again quite so quickly. When we look around at the world today, we can see a great Spiritual need. People are hungry for meaning and desire purpose, but just like people who are hungry often fill their stomachs with the empty calories of fast food and junk food, people today fill their minds and hearts with a different type of empty calories.

Many people are religious around the world. I lived in a country where everyone was identified on their ID cards as having a religion and most people would have said they were followers of the majority religion, but for most of them, it never made it from their ID card to their head and even fewer to their heart. A local pastor said that most of the people have just enough religion to be inoculated from feeling like they ever need anything more. They have checked that box and moved on, without enough to know God and not really enough to be dissatisfied with the empty calories it provides.

This type of thing isn’t isolated to one country. In the US, there are people who call themselves Christian, but it doesn’t seem to make a difference in the way they live their lives. They have adopted a religion, but missed a faith. Last month, I talked about this in the article, American Gospel. With this type of Christianity, it is possible to check the box that you have the “God stuff” covered, but still be left feeling empty in the end and to miss out on anything that could possibly change your life for the better.

Nothing is more empty than the message of the religious. Several years ago, I read a modern day parable, written by Rob Stennett, The Almost True Story of Ryan Fisher. This book tells the story of salesman without faith, who sees the potential to exploit religion for his own gain. He builds a “church” and an empire devoid of faith, but full of his self, for his own benefit. While this is a novel, it is unfortunately too close to reality for comfort.

Whether it is a religious, political or academic leader, our world is filled with people who use the masses for their own gain. It is to their benefit to offer a message that is filled with empty calories. Empty calories lead people to be dependent on those who are shelling them out. This can be a message of self help, something for nothing, or works-based theology. If what you are consuming does not satisfy, it is worth taking the time to test it for truth.

You can be controlled by those aribtrators of their truth as they feed you nothing but junk food. Simplistic messages that offer no real solutions and never teach you to think for yourself or make a change in your life that can really make a difference. False teachers peddle a message that always places the problems outside of your control. They point to hating and judging others and offer themselves as the answer. Faith points to changing our individual actions and not just our words. It points to the power of groups of people committed to a higher purpose, which is only really found in God, not in the faulty ideas of man.

If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.

James 1:26-27 (NLT)

James writes of pure and genuine religion. His religion is not corrupted by the world, but is bound by caring for those in need, not empty words that are nothing but empty calories. James, the author of this text, was born into a time filled with empty, meaningless religion and he saw that transformed by Christ.

Jesus came teaching the ultimate antidote for the false inoculation of religion. He came teaching a true faith that saw people moving away from religious compliance to legalism and focusing on a transformed heart that made people different, not just behaving different. If you believe that our society needs to change, you will find many people who agree with you, but if you want to see real change, you have to stop looking to the empty calories of religion. It doesn’t matter if the version is the one being sold by a political platform, an entertainer or a false religious teacher. True religion, found in faith, always changes the person who has found it, before it starts demanding that others change first.

If you want to know more, I suggest reading the Gospel of John or consider watching the Chosen video series. Jesus taught the Truth. His teaching was not empty calories, but a meal that can fully satisfy. He is our hope and the hope for the world we live in today. Don’t settle for nothing but junk.

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