Worshiping in spirit and in truth

Jesus said the time had come that true worshipers would worship in spirit and in truth. The indication is that there always would be true worshipers, as compared to false worshipers. It is difficult for most people to understand, without first defining the meaning of both ‘spirit and truth’ terms. Understandably, not many people desire to worship in spirit and in truth. The reason being that this requires a radical transformation of what the person would have always considered as comfortable. On castigating the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law, Jesus had this to say:

“You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules’” (Matthew 15:8-9) (NIV).

Here Jesus was clarifying an issue concerning the washing of hands before food. It is one of the conglomerate laws given to the communal Israelites, during their nomadic dispensation in the wilderness. Whether such laws had been intended for hygienic principles or other ceremonial purposes, they had nothing to do with a person’s spiritual condition. (See Leviticus 15:7-13). The Israelites just accepted these laws, without understanding their purpose.

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Hence, their worship was not directed by the principle of desiring to add value in their conduct. The ceremonial washing of hands simply got adopted as tradition, but without significance in their valuable conduct. This was not even done for hygienic purposes. While it may have had a purpose during their sojourn in the wilderness, their continued usage was for traditional purposes, without reason. Their concern, when asking Jesus, had nothing to do with hygiene, for instance.

“Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, ‘Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!’ Jesus replied, ‘And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, “Honor your father and mother” and “Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.” ‘But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is “devoted to God,” they are not to “honor their father or mother” with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition’” (Matthew 15:1-6) (NIV).

The principle of honoring one’s parents is not a tradition, necessarily. This is just like the principle of looking after one’s children is not a tradition or custom, necessarily. It is a principle, associated with culture, which is often wrongly mistaken for custom and tradition. But culture includes human intellectual achievement, in consideration of civilization and education. Failure to honor parents affects the survival of the human race. The social pursuits endowed in culture are what makes a civilization favorable—as long as enhancing survival values.

Customs and traditions are habitually adopted without consideration of survival, necessarily. For instance, the tradition of using a fork and knife when eating has no survival value, except as a tradition. Yet it makes those coming from African countries feel cultured when using them. But, using a fork and knife, or not using a fork and knife does not affect culture, necessarily. Yet, traditions, practiced from over a long time, do affect culture, in a negative way.

The importance of education can, therefore, not be overemphasized. Before Jesus, the Greeks were considered most cultured, when compared with the rest of the world. This was because the Greek Philosophers committed themselves to study and education. However, education is education, only when leading to the information related to the source of origin, which is God. Anyone’s education is valuable to the extent of identifying with the origin.

The purpose of education is to provide the cultural base that enhances the survival of humanity. A good education provides enlightenment so that a person can live a better life. Unfortunately, education needs to be debugged of some unwanted elements within it, for it to be highly effective. One of the downsides of education is the consideration of traditions and customs.

The Ten Commandments, given to the Israelites, are fundamental to a good education. Failure is measured according to the degree of not culturally applying those Commandments, when traditionally adopting them. Currently, the Greeks are credited as pioneers in education. But education is education, only when sustained within the Ten Commandments, given to the Israelites. This is regardless of the fact that the Israelites did not adopt the Ten Commandments as the basis for education. They valued tradition and customs, more than education.

From the time of Adam, the human race has always been embroiled in ignorance, hence idolatry was central in their behavior. Tradition and customs guided everything to do with their pursuit for survival, instead of education. Everything identified as primitive, even today, implies slavery, due to lack of education. Though holding the Ten Commandments, the Israelites disregarded them and sought to be traditionally guided by them, instead.

They said to Samuel, ‘You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.’ But when they said, ‘Give us a king to lead us,’ this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: ‘Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you that they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you.  Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights’” (1 Samuel 8:5-9) (NIV)

It should surprise many people that the idea, of having a superior above, comes from lack of education. The statement, ‘Give us a king to lead us,’ does not come from an informed source. It is instinctively guided by the sense of traditionalism. Copying what the other nations were doing was more appealing than using God’s Commandments, to guide their behavior. This is the challenge facing education, even today, suggesting the inability to apply what a person is taught. What is the value of education, if unable to apply what is learned? Education is littered with Professors who value strings of titles against their names, without benefiting anyone, except their ego.

Of course, this sounds crude and may be unpopular, but very true, in the majority of cases. The point is that education is education, only when adding value to human survival. Education is not education, when only benefiting the individual concerned, regardless of the status accorded to him. Valuable education produces results that enhance survival for other fellow humans. In other words, it is the beneficiaries who should give honor to the benefactor, not the benefactor seeking to give honor to himself.

A good culture enhances human survival. A culture can be said to be bad, and not a culture at all, when not enhancing human survival. This is what Jesus meant when castigating the Jews who had put a value on tradition, rather than the culture of honoring parents. Culture is derived from the principle of education, which denotes reason, more than tradition.

“You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules’” (Matthew 15:8-9) (NIV).

The ultimate purpose of education is to identify with God. The Israelites could have been considered as more educated than the Greeks, had they applied the Decalogue. For instance, they would have been educated, if knowing the purpose of keeping the Sabbath. When applied with reason, rather than tradition those Commandments carry survival value.

A person is as educated as applying what comes from God—the source of human existence. When using those laws for traditional purposes, only, the person is uneducated. Hence Christ said those Jews were hypocrites. Their fuss about hand-washing had nothing to do with hygiene. But it had much to do with tradition, serving to invalidate the tenets of the Ten Commandments. One of their experts in law asked Jesus:

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:36-40) (NIV).

They were not wrong in referring to Jesus as ‘Teacher.’ A teacher is someone accorded with the responsibility to guide others towards proper education. The Decalogue was given to the Israelites. But it simply represents an educational culture that, if adopted clinically, handles all survival challenges. The first four Commandments are summarized in the first of the two commandments highlighted by Jesus. Like the first, the second takes into consideration the remaining six.

These are principles that are more concerned with common sense than they should be regarded as Commandments. The reason being that they are applicable, even better, when used as common sense. An educated person does not need to be commanded to honor his parents. As cultured, He considers honoring his parents as common sense. Let alone being commanded not to steal, or apply the rest of the other Commandments.

There are those who advance the theory that education and God are not related. That is true, only when such education is false. Otherwise, all education has its base from its original source. This is why, even after, approximately, two thousand years, there has not been any person as educated as Jesus Christ. The knowledge that Jesus exuded, surpasses, by far, all worldly knowledge, whether scientific or philosophical.

The difference between Jesus and other teachers is that Jesus came from the source of all knowledge. In other words, no-one can improve on anything said by Jesus, who was not, necessarily, religious. He was a teacher, though different from those of this world, who seek to be adulated with certification. Jesus simply declared being the way, the truth, and the life. (John 14:6). Those sincerely following Him become educated, by default.

The idea of true worship implies cognizance of original source of all knowledge. That idea was displayed by Jesus, who insisted that He could do nothing, except what came from His Father (John 5:19). In other words, Jesus lived His life to please the original source. Jesus talked a great deal about faith, but what did He mean “by faith?”

 He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20) (NIV).

Well, the Book of Hebrews describes faith as: “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for” (Hebrews 11:1-2) (NIV). How does assurance come about, except through education? It is, also, impossible to have confidence without knowledge, yet knowledge is abundantly available. There has to be something that hinders the acquisition of knowledge. See [Permanent hindrance towards access to knowledge].

Knowledge is accessible, when willing to learn. Tradition is anchored on pride, making those affected, thrive on hypocrisy. Those talking about unwashed hands considered tradition more than common sense. It made them feel better than those not associated with those traditions. That is regardless of the fact that they could not quantify the value, governing those traditions.

The same applies to Sabbath-keeping. The Sabbath Commandment was a sign leading to the prophetic rest for humanity, in God’s Kingdom. Its principle lies in appreciating God’s knowledge, which is not from human traditions and customs. After Jesus—the Teacher—Sabbath-keeping could not continue as a requirement. This is just as an educated person does not need Commandments, as able to apply the principles of his knowledge.

This is what Jesus meant by worshiping in Spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24). This agrees with what is said in Hebrews 11:1-2. Those having confidence in what they hope for and assurance about what they do not see, are educated. It takes an educated person to have confidence in what he hopes for, with assurance about what he does not see. If the Jews failed on this test, the Christians currently, still fail—hence the idea of worshiping and idolizing the person of Jesus. Knowledge, itself is spiritual, just as truth is spiritual.

Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing relief to those having witnessed the strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long-awaited providential oasis of hope.

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