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Transactional ‘faith’

– Tuesday of the 2nd Week of Lent –

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. … They do all their deeds to be seen by others …’ [Matthew 23:1-3, 5]

Here Jesus is evaluating the tendency that all people of faith can evidence: using the things of faith to gain some imagined benefit. In this instance, Jesus is accusing the scribes and Pharisees of utilising the practice of faith to gain kudos and respect from others. It aggravates him.

Using faith to achieve some desired outcome is not confined to those in leadership. For example, think of the wish to have a child baptised so that he or she might later attend a Catholic school.  It is understandable and innocent enough until we consider that the only valid reason for baptism is that we want the child to be reborn into the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, and so to become a witness to the presence of Jesus Christ in the world.

By way of another example, think of the tendency to see faith as some sort of deal: I will believe in God as long as God does whatever I require of him. Here the motivation is transactional. If God appears to fail on his side of the bargain, I can feel justified in reneging on my side. God does not do what I want … so I stop showing up. The problem is; God does not make deals.

Using these examples (and there are others), each of us could well ponder these questions concerning our faith: ‘what am I expecting to get out of this?’ And, ‘can I let it go?’

By Shane Dwyer

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