The one Psalmist does not use those exact words, but he drives the same point: God is tired of people attempting to play church, both actual saints and those who are pretend saints.
The same is particularly true of the contemporary church scene as it involves God.
What does it mean to “play church with God?” In so many terms, playing church with God by people associated with the church involves the pseudo worship intentions of going through the motions of church attending and praising of God during church meetings, but not living in loyal and vibrant fashion according to the principles and expectations of God the rest of the time. The consequences of such spur spiritual indifference and a failed Christian witness that is obviously not making much of a difference in communities at large.
God says, “Gather my saints together unto me that have made a covenant with me … and I will testify against thee.” God says, according to the Psalmist, that He will not fuss at you for your church attendance or the certain sacrifices you make.
But, God says, according to the Psalmist, that He would rather that you live truer and more consistently to “the promises you have made unto me” (“pay thy vows unto the Most High”). After all, when a person receives Christ as their personal Lord and Savior, eternal salvation not only comes with the stipulated and stated confession, but eternal salvation also comes with the stipulated and stated commitment to live according to the expectations and principles set forth by God for the Christian. Apostle John clarifies it: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.”
In other words, those who profess to be Christians but do not live true Christianity are merely playing church, and God is tired of it. He says that He will judge it. I truly believe that He is in the process of doing just that very thing according to the hateful violence, social injustice and moral degradation we clearly see these days. It seems the people of the church are barely making a dent for the name of Christ.
But, playing church also involves the pretend saint. “But unto the wicked God saith.” These are they who say to victims of crime or disaster, “Our prayers are with you.” These are they who comment about prosperity, “God bless America.” These are they who invoke the Lord’s Prayer during group sessions or feel-good moments. These are they who send support to food or child charities to mollify consciences. These are they who say that they know church attendance is important … but, these “despise the instruction of God.”
These “consent with the thief.” These “support the adulterers.” These “speak evilly.” These “speak lies.” These “are prejudiced.” These call good evil, and evil good. God asks these who merely play church, according to the Psalmist, “What do you have to do with me that you do or say things in my name?” God says, according to the Psalmist, “I will reprove you, and set you in order …”
For people to play church is clearly offensive to God.
The people of the church need to recognize what is at stake and get real with God.
God says, according to the Psalmist, “He that orders his lifestyle aright will I shew the salvation of God.” For example, do not gamble on the providence of man, but depend on the providence of God. Do not let your lips utter profanity, but let your lips utter praise of God. Do not be satisfied with being faithful 23½ hours a day, but be faithful a full 24 hours a day. Order your life around God. Do not order God around your life.
It is also important for others to recognize what is at stake and not only get real with God, but also get right with God. God has shown you two things. First, that He loves you. Second, that He will deal with you at some point if you do not get right with Him.
Otherwise, if playing church is OK with you, have fun while you can.
The Rev. Ron Branch is pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Mason, W.Va.