German economist and communist Karl Marx’s famous quote states that “religion is the opiate of the masses.” Gotquestions.com’s commentary on Marx says that when he made this statement, “he was denouncing religion in general by using ‘people’ in a demeaning sense to mean the poor, ignorant, and easily deceived. The essential argument of the ‘opium of the masses’ saying is that religion is for weak-minded and emotionally disturbed people who need a crutch to get through life. Atheists today make similar claims.”
Is Marx right?
It depends on how we view and live out our faith. Encarta Dictionary defines religion as “an institutionalized or personal system of beliefs and practices relating to the divine.” So we have to ask ourselves, as Christians, is our religion based on the institution of the church or on personal beliefs and practices as we walk with Jesus? In Ephesians 3:1-14, Paul emphasizes that Christ’s death on the cross opened the way for Gentiles (those who aren’t Jewish) to be part of God’s kingdom. Now, through the church, the Gospel of Jesus is to be proclaimed so we may approach God with freedom and confidence. This means the ministries and activities of our congregation must be based on sharing Jesus with others and ministering to them in love. According to the Bible, the church is the people who follow Jesus. It is not the building where they worship. The Bible says our main goal should be following and proclaiming Jesus. It should not be just to “attend church.”
It is possible to attend church and ignore Jesus. We can go to worship on Sunday morning, attend Bible studies during the week and help with outreach ministries but leave the church facilities and still gossip, be judgmental and refuse to love our neighbors even though Jesus calls us to do these things. We all need to ask ourselves a very relevant question. Am I really walking with Jesus….or just coming to church? If I attend worship on a regular basis and volunteer with ministries but don’t allow Jesus to change my heart, then perhaps Marx is right about religion being an opiate for me. Acting like this lets me feel better about myself without going through the struggle of becoming closer to Christ.
To help us determine if we’re following Jesus or simply attending church, let’s wrestle with the following questions:
1) What things in my life do I use as a barrier or as an excuse to keep me from getting closer to Jesus? Sin, work, hobbies, friends, electronics, sex, friends, dating, etc. are all things that can take our focus away from following Jesus.
2) Am I more concerned with where I sit and the way things “used to be” than I am about truly worshipping God? If I’m more concerned with keeping the same seat in church and always singing the types of music that I like than I am about reaching others with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then I’m missing the whole point of why the church even exists.
3) In what areas am I more concerned with my own desires than I am about what God wants to do in my life, the lives of others, or in the congregation? As unique individuals who have different spiritual gifts, we need to remember that not everyone thinks the same way I do or wants the same things for our congregation. This is why God brings us together as a body. Together we are the church. This means we must work with others for the good of the congregation even if it isn’t what’s best for me.
Attending worship and other congregational events should bring us some peace and comfort because we do them in the name of Jesus. They should not, however, be a substitute for walking with him. Proclaiming his name and trying our best to live a Christian life is our top priority.