Jesus teaches about worshipping God in vain: ‘in vain do they worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men’ Mk 7:7.
Vain worship is empty worship, devoid of proper content, but this is not the emphasis of the Greek word used here, which points to the ‘fruitless activity’ of such worship. It points to its empty outcome rather than to its empty content.
Scripture teaches that worship which does not lead to social justice is vain worship.
Look at Isaiah 1:11-19, Malachi 2:13 and Mark 7:7,10-13.
Isaiah 1:11-19 shows that true worship is not about outward forms but it requires repentance Isa 1:16, social justice Isa 1:17 and willing obedience to rectify wrongs Isa 1:19.
Malachi 2:13 shows that God will not notice our worship if we abuse our wives.
Mark 7:7-13 shows that Jesus teaches that if people will not honour their parents, they need not think that they are honouring God.
All the Old Testaments prophets taught social justice as the mark of effective religion. Its neglect was one of the reasons for the Old Testament captivity Zechariah 7:9-14. Failure to learn this lesson was one reason for 400 years of prophetic silence during the inter-testamentary period Mal 2:13 and Mal 4:6. Failure to treat the Messiah with social justice is one reason for 2000 years of divine rejection Mat 21:38-45.
The lack of social justice in church and state is a manifestation of the ineffectiveness of Christianity in Britain today. We are ripening for further judgment if the Christian church will not awaken out of its sleep. “They all slumbered and slept” – including the five wise virgins Mat 25:5. “It is high time to awaken out of sleep” Romans 13:11.
It is time to repent and worship God properly.
22 May 2014: the distinction between the social Gospel and social justice as the outcome of the Gospel.