Who Let the Dogs Out? Chronicles of a Religious Busybody (More Philippians 3)

All dogs go to heaven…let’s hope not.

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Steer clear of the barking dogs, those religious busybodies, all bark and no bite. All they’re interested in is appearances—knife-happy circumcisers, I call them. The real believers are the ones the Spirit of God leads to work away at this ministry, filling the air with Christ’s praise as we do it. We couldn’t carry this off by our own efforts, and we know it—even though we can list what many might think are impressive credentials. You know my pedigree: a legitimate birth, circumcised on the eighth day; an Israelite from the elite tribe of Benjamin; a strict and devout adherent to God’s law; a fiery defender of the purity of my religion, even to the point of persecuting the church; a meticulous observer of everything set down in God’s law Book. ~ Philippians 3:2-6

Have you ever been swarmed by dogs?  Maybe at the pound, a pet store or even someone’s home?  Perhaps this is your home.

The activity, particularly barking, can be incessant.  Your eardrums and nerves can easily and quickly become shot.  Everything is probably covered with hair!  And let’s not forget the ceaseless licking which frequently follows the dog’s personal, routine cleaning!  Yummy.

It is interesting to me that Paul draws up a metaphor, for enhancing the reader’s understanding of course, in which he compares religious busybodies to barking dogs.  I’m not sure that it’s really a mystery, but let’s pause for a moment and ask ourselves, “What is a religious busybody?”

  • In the Greek, Paul is literally calling these folks “workers of evil” or “evildoers” because they pursue a false circumcision, the management and mutilation of externals. *

Have you answered the above question: “What is a religious busybody?”

As I stated earlier (see Philippians 3: Where I Am, Have Been, & Am Going), citing the Message instead of a more literal translation can be quite troubling for many as we are already seeing what, at the surface, appears to be a discrepancy.  A religious busybody ≠ a worker of evil, right?  How misleading of the Message?!  Anathema!

But think about it.  Although “religious busybody” is very general and broad, the meaning stays intact: Paul is condemning the use of externals as the litmus test for one’s spiritual positioning with God!

Moment of honesty: What level of confidence do you gain from your external, religious practices?  Maybe I should ask in this way: How many ministries are you “called” to?  Bible studies?  Small groups?  Maybe you actually attend multiple churches as well.  Whatever it may be, as Americans we often think:

more = more

I know, that sounds weird.  Let me explain in these terms.

More MONEY = More SECURITY

More STUFF = More SUCCESS

More POWER = More FULFILLMENT

More FRIENDS = More HAPPINESS

More ATTRACTIVE = More ACCEPTABLE

More CONTROL = More COMPLETE

More, more, MORE!  These are the economics we buy.  So go play the lottery because that makes you a national conservationist!  One green for another.  Sorry, soapbox there.

But what if LESS is more?  

In regards to your relationship to Christ, where is quantity falsely assumed to be quality?

This is such a subtle, nuanced issue where what is good, holy, and honorable can so easily turn into religious expressions of pride, idolatry, and selfishness.

Let me be clear, I AM NOT DISCOURAGING GOOD DEEDS, however, I am encouraging sobriety in a works-drunk generation and honesty within a culture that loves to put on a show.

Here are some examples where I have turned the good into bad by falsely presuming levels of quality simply through fixating on the quantity:

-Church services I attend

-Dollars I donate

-Hours I serve

-Doors I knock on

-People I disciple

-Homeless I feed

-Children I beget

-Republicans I vote for

-Bible studies I host or lead

-Christian books and blogs I read

-Years I have walked with Christ

All notches I proudly wore around my Godly girth.  Or today, tattoos I proudly boasted with a sleeveless tees.

All of these are good things that evidence God’s work in my life but how quickly the object of adoration can change!  Within a blink, “Look at God’s goodness and all that He is doing!” is substituted by, “Look at how good, obedient, spiritual, or mature I am!”.

I’m not sure I can even surmise the amount of deception, and self-deception, I naively created in my attempts to love Jesus.  The ends do NOT justify the means.  Motives poison outcomes.

So, can you tell I love checklists?  I’m addicted to my rigid indexing of accomplishments and I am terrified of the wind-driven life led by Holy Spirit that knows no such benchmarks.

What about you?  Is your walk of faith like your grocery list?  You might not be a literal “evildoer” who is looking for flesh to mutilate but are you a religious busybody?

Let me ask it this way: Is Jesus’ love and acceptance of you (and others) conditioned upon how well you measure up or perform?  Or, are you a “fruit inspector?”

I hope, if anything, we are all reminded that there is often more than what meets the eye.  Perhaps you’ve heard: Don’t judge a book by its cover.  God uses this criteria.  As the Scripture admonishes:

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” ~ 1 Samuel 16:7

Dogs, not disciples of Jesus, look only at appearances!  Earthly eyes fixate upon externals; eyes of faith accept the mystery and leave it to God.

My HOPE4Hipsters:

Many have been turned away from the Church and even Jesus Christ because of barking dogs, religious busybodies who are only concerned with the external appearances of others.

I don’t think we can, or should, hide behind doctrines of election to explain this modern pathology in the Church; people just don’t like being around arrogant meanies!  They have found the weight of religion too heavy to bear, the condemnation of common Christianity too cold to endure.

Let’s face it.  We as humans, with exception to Pharisees, hate heartless habits, especially religious routines.  People, in general, acknowledge they are in need; they truly desire something bigger than themselves.

They hunger for an existential encounter that will evolve their eternal estate.  And what do they usually find???  Rules, a ball and chain, a yoke, control.

Jesus has more for you, millennials!  There is hope, hipsters.

 

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Comments

  1. Thank you, Brandon! Even though I’m a dog person this was still an excellent teaching/reminder;) I love that our Lord wants us to worship Him in Spirit and in truth. It is like a breath of fresh air in comparison to our flesh that always goes towards works and outward appearance serving.

    1. Author

      Hey, Terri! Thank you, as usual, for your comment and your encouragement! I’m kind of a dog person as well, but just had to follow the metaphor. I’m learning to embrace the Spirit & truth…it can be difficult for us Westerners! You are correct though; it is a breath of fresh air for sure! He is Spirit.

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