DayBreaks for 3/02/18: Bizarre Legalism
From the DayBreaks archive, February 2008:
One of the most mind-boggling scenes in Scripture is found in Matthew, Mark and Luke. All three of these gospels record the story of Jesus healing a man with a withered hand. It doesn’t seem like the stupendous kind of miracle that we often think would be noted by all the synoptic gospels: raising the dead, healing the blind, etc. But, nonetheless, the story is found in all 3. Perhaps that’s because the miracle was done on the Sabbath – it seemed to delight Jesus to heal on the Sabbath (after all, isn’t that part of the reason for Sabbath – healing for our bodies and minds and spirits?)
Predictably, the religious leaders were incensed because of this healing on the Sabbath. But notice what they did: “The Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.” Do you get it? Remember what they were mad about: healing on the Sabbath, which they prohibited (but which God obviously didn’t!). So, though they were dead set against healing on the Sabbath, they didn’t seem to have any concerns at all about plotting murder on the Sabbath!
The legalistic mind is a strange place. It thinks it is free because it can run down a list of rules and check them off, one by one, and when all is said and done, if there are enough check marks, they can feel good about themselves. And that’s when pride enters the picture. And before we surrender our pride, we’ll plot murder.
It’s easy to become legalistic. All it requires is a paper, a checklist and a pen. It requires no spirituality, no discernment, not yielding to the Spirit, just obedience to the written checklist. And as often as not, the checklist has very little to do with God and almost everything to do with the legalist.
But, lest we get to carried away in our condemnation of the legalist, let’s be sure that we’re not creating a checklist that says, “I’m not like that…see!” Wouldn’t we be better to live in such a way that our actions and words speak for us rather than comparing ourselves to others to see if we’re better or not?
Undoubtedly, the Pharisees and Herodians (who by the way totally hated each other, but who united against Jesus) thought they were spot on with their interpretations of the rules (even if they weren’t as good at keeping the law as they were in proclaiming it and binding it on others). I believe they did what they did with a clear conscience, but that didn’t make them right with Jesus.
When our obedience becomes due to the letter of the law instead of gratitude for the wonder of what God has done, we’re on dangerous ground. Do you want to put your confidence in words printed on a page, or in the Word?
PRAYER: Father, keep us from judgmentalism and legalism that would blind us to our own failings! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.