In Matthew 15: 8-9 Jesus said: “This people draws nigh unto Me with their mouth, and honors Me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me. But in vain they do worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” The New Living Translation has: “These people honors Me with their lips, but their hearts are far away. Their worship is a farce, for they replace God’s commands with their own man-made teachings.” Jesus was describing the conduct and worship of the scribes and Pharisees. Their conduct was hypocritical because they were honoring God with their lips, but their hearts lacked reverence.
There is nothing wrong with honoring God with the lips. In fact, one should honor God that way. Hebrews 13: 15 says: “Let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name.” However, when this is done without the heart being involved, it is hypocritical and becomes a farce.
But, back to the scribes and Pharisees. Verse 9 tells us their worship was “in vain.” It is difficult for some to understand how any WORSHIP could be “in vain,” but this verse definitely proves some worship can be. In these verses Jesus listed two causes of “vain” worship. (1) It is in vain when the heart is not in it, and (2) it is in vain when it includes “teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”
Most people have no difficulty seeing the hypocrisy in worship characterized by mere words independent of the heart. But for some reason, people do not seem to view man-made doctrines with the same degree of disfavor. However, Jesus said teaching man-made doctrines makes worship vain. True religion, and worship, emanates from a genuine heart that loves God above all else. The word “vain” means “futile” or “to no end.” This verse exposes the modern misconception that God accepts any kind of worship that is offered to Him! 2 John 9 says it this way: “Whosoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.” When you worship, think on these things.