In an old fable, a man told the Grim Reaper (death) he would die willingly if the Grim Reaper gave him ample warning—so he could get ready to die. The Grim Reaper agreed; soon weeks turned into months, months into years. One cold winter night, death stood at his bed. The man was startled and asked death, “What happened to our agreement about a warning?” Death said, “O, I sent you many messages —your hair is thin and falling out; your hearing is gone; your walking pace has slowed. You just ignored my messages.” People in Jeremiah’s day were like the man in the fable; they ignored God’s messages. We read this in Jeremiah chapter 7: “Don’t be fooled by those who promise you safety simply because the LORD’S Temple is here. They chant, ‘The LORD’S Temple is here! The LORD’S Temple is here!’ But I will be merciful only if you stop your evil thoughts and deeds and start treating each other with justice; only if you stop exploiting foreigners, orphans, and widows; only if you stop your murdering, and only if you stop harming yourselves by worshiping idols. Then I will let you stay in this land that I gave to your ancestors to keep forever.” Back then, people thought their Temple would shield them from God’s judgment. But God made it plain that He is not impressed by our outward religiosity. He looks for changed behavior that comes from inner transformation. He looks to see real justice and righteousness as evidence of our faith.
Dr. Melvin E. Banks, Sr. is the founder and chairman of UMI (Urban Ministries, Inc.). Under his direction, UMI has grown to be a leading publisher of Christian education resources for churches in the African American community. Read More