Legalism and Justice [Part 2]   Leave a comment

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They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them..” Matthew 23

Hypocrisy is usually a character of the legalist. At some point the legalist will tell to people what they should do but they themselves might not be doing what they say.  Severe to others but indulgent to themselves. They have a false humility i.e. they make as if they do not seek for glory, leadership position or privileges when this is what they are actually seeking. They may be soft spoken persons but in the inside they are wolves in sheep clothing. Their soft tone, humble way of clothing themselves or even the way they walk are deceits. This was how Jesus described the Pharisees who wore wide boxes (phylacteries) on their arms or forehead. These boxes contain scriptures and making them wide was probably a demonstration that they were well versed in the scripture. Boasting about one’s knowledge of the Scripture or the law is another characteristic of the legalists.  They loved to be greeted with respect when they walked in public places(market place) Jesus said. In other words, they sought for recognition. They might also feel insecure if someone aims to learn more about the law/scripture or wish to enter God’s kingdom without going through them.

This is what Jesus said about this: “You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to

They want to be those who guide people to heaven but Jesus called them blind guides. In other words they want to be a mediator between God and man but there is only one Mediator – Jesus. This is why Jesus said never to call a man rabbi or father for there is only one Teacher – Jesus and only one Father – God.

This is a gross mistake of the catholic priests who take the name of ‘father’. The pope for instance is a modern time Pharisee according to this verse and also do all his adherents/followers. Is it on same ground of super spirituality that the catholic priests are not allowed to marry(Peter was married) – for fear of being defiled with sexuality ? The leader among the disciples, Peter was married(1 Cor . 9:5) and it’s hard to understand how the Vatican came with this ascetic doctrine of forbidding man to marry – which has caused so many of them to become pedophile or rapists. These priests probably taught about holiness but they themselves lived in immorality. Asceticism is therefore another characteristic of the religious legalists.

Since the legalists think that they have the key to the knowledge of God or are an authority to God’s affairs, they allow themselves to add or remove to scripture. This is why many false doctrines emerged. For instance, the Pharisees twisted the scripture when they said: ” ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’”. To this teaching Jesus pointed out that their reasoning did not make sense.

As regards tithe, the Pharisees took it so seriously that they even gave a tenth of their spices—mint, dill and cumin. To this Jesus responded “you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness“.

One can be so absorbed in practicing the law that he forgets that the spirit behind the law is justice, mercy and faithfulness.

Tradition in the church is one of the common source of arguments. Traditions are man-made and many leaders consider them as similar to God’s Word. For instance, celebrating Christmas, Easter, Mother’s day are not commands in the bible but are traditions brought in the church. For the Pharisees, it was a tradition that hands should be washed before eating. Of course this is a healthy thing to do. There’s nothing wrong to wash our hands before eating or celebrating mother’s day to honor our mother or Easter/Christmas to remember Jesus’ coming, death and Resurrection. However, eating without washing one’s hands makes someone prone to diseases but not a sinner. Not celebrating Christmas, Easter or Mother’s day does not make one a sinner. This is what the Pharisees said:

Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!” 

Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’[and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death. But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’  they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition” Mat. 15:2

Once again Jesus showed the Pharisees that their teachings were contradictory. The Pharisees probably taught that one should honor his father and mother and failing to do so was such a gross sin that it was subject to death penalty. However, the Pharisees in their hypocrisy reasoned that since they have already spared aside some gifts/money to God then they are unable to use that gift to help their needy parents. They considered that this gift set aside were already reserved/devoted for God and was therefore not right to use it otherwise. In modern time, this might also do to our commitments. For instance, if we reason that we have already committed ourselves to give 6 months of our time in mission and have to leave behind our sick and needy parents then we’re behaving like the pharisees. God does not need our money or sacrifice. Obedience, love, justice are better than sacrifice. Be careful in the way you deal with money in church affairs. If you feel confused in how to spend your time, money or resources in spiritual matters, think about the spirit behind the law: Love, justice, faithfulness and mercy.  What would Jesus do?

 

 

 

 

 

Posted March 22, 2019 by Cedric in My writings (English)

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