What is the key to true religion? If you consider the world’s major faiths, the central features of religion seem to be: iconic buildings, long-followed traditions, regular rituals, frequent prayer, and particular beliefs. Whatever order you may rank these features in, 21st century Christianity fits the pattern with its church buildings, its services of worship, its customs of spirituality and its core beliefs.
What does God make of all this?
In the final days of Jesus’ life, he laid out to his followers the criteria by which God will judge all the people of our little planet. His message was quite clear. God will assess us according to how we have responded to the practical needs of those in greatest need who are not managing to care for themselves. To make the point quite clear, Jesus repeated it four times. (See Matthew 25:31-46). With that point made, his message makes no mention whatsoever of beliefs, prayers, or patterns or places of worship. These things simply do not feature.
Some decades later, Jesus’ brother, James, turned his attention to the same theme. He expressed a similar understanding to that of his much more famous brother: "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress”.
Put simply - if our acts worship, our prayers and our beliefs encourage and enable us to offer practical care to those who need our assistance, then they may be of some value. But if our practice of worship and our understanding of God does not lead us into practical care, then our religion is quite pointless.