Hobbling Along

Rev. Steven D. Hofmeister
Rev. Steven D. HofmeisterFounder, Senior Pastor, & President
Diakonos Independent Ministries of Maryland

“Religion is nothing but a crutch!”

Oh, how many times I have heard people say that. I’ve never spoken up to someone who has said it in my presence in the past. Why, may you ask? Because the statement itself perplexed me, here is why. First off, let’s start with the ‘religion’ portion of this statement.

Religion is a word that leaves a sour taste in many people’s mouths. When you say religion, people usually think of fancy rituals and pageantry in a “religious service.” There is a significant player in Christianity who was not a big fan of fancy rituals and pageantry, Jesus Christ. That’s right! Jesus Christ himself did not care much for the rituals of “religion,” and can be seen in Luke 11:37-42 (NLT).

“As Jesus was speaking, one of the Pharisees invited him home for a meal. So he went in and took his place at the table. 38 His host was amazed to see that he sat down to eat without first performing the hand-washing ceremony required by Jewish custom. 39 Then the Lord said to him, “You Pharisees are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and wickedness! 40 Fools! Didn’t God make the inside as well as the outside? 41 So clean the inside by giving gifts to the poor, and you will be clean all over.

42 “What sorrow awaits you Pharisees! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore justice and the love of God. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.” – Luke 11:37-42 (NLT)

Of course, there is a time and place for rituals, for example, communion, baptism to name a few. But the ritual of hand-washing, as mentioned in these verses, had absolutely nothing to do with hygiene. What important things was he referencing? The most crucial commission given “Love Your Neighbor.” Jesus was saying, don’t get too wrapped up in the show to make yourself look worthy to those around you. Focus on helping others.

Now, let’s take on the crutch. The statement “Religion is nothing but a crutch” perplexed me because it’s a true statement. How is this so? For this explanation, let’s look at the purpose of a crutch. A crutch is a device used to help aid our ability to walk when we are injured. Ok, simple enough, right? Now you can probably guess where I am going to take this from here. Removing the word religion in its context of ritual and pageantry and replacing it with Jesus Christ, we now have “Jesus Christ is nothing but a crutch.” Well, exactly. Of course, Jesus Christ is a crutch. We are to lean on him when we are broken and injured. Jesus is not going to push us to do the right thing; if that were the case, he would be a gurney instead of a crutch. Instead, we lean on him as a crutch when we need help to walk in the direction we are supposed to go. If we step too far out away from our crutch or make too many steps, we will likely fall.

The Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans,

27 Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. 28 So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law. – Romans 3:27-28 (NLT)

We have to have faith that our crutch is going to support our weight. You could paint your crutch pretty colors and decorate it, making it a flashy object that gets attention. You could have it measured and professionally set up to be the perfect height for you, but if it can’t support you when you need it to take a step forward, then it is nothing but a showpiece.

The same goes for a relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is our crutch, our firm foundation, our rock. It doesn’t matter what we do to make ourselves look steady and all together; what matters is that we should lean on Jesus Christ proudly with a strong faith that he can support us through even the rockiest of pathways in our lives.

So the next time you hear someone say, “Religion is nothing but a crutch!” proudly remind them that religion is not the crutch, Jesus Christ is, that he is the only thing strong enough to hold us up when we are in danger of getting knocked down.