Stop Being A Crabby Legalist

Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.”   — John 5:8-10

As we begin, we should note that Jesus was not violating the Law of God when he healed this man on the Sabbath. But he was violating a religious interpretation of the Law. Jewish religious leaders had established oral traditions to help interpret the Law of God. This was their attempt to define laws that were open to some interpretation. Thus these oral traditions (or customs) had become a way of legislating obedience. We commonly call this legalism.

In this instance, Jesus healed on the Sabbath. And the Sabbath was a day of rest where work was not to be done as stated by the fourth of the Ten Commandments. But words like "rest" and "work" were open to some interpretation in this particular commandment. For example, how much "work" can or cannot be done on the Sabbath? Therefore Jewish oral laws were written to guide this interpretation. And in this instance, a man carrying anything around that weighed more than two figs was considered a violation of this commandment.

But for a moment, I want you to assume that these oral laws (and there were 613 of them) were written to help followers more carefully walk in obedience to God. If so, the motivation behind them might initially be pure. But like any form of legislation, these behavioral requirements can be used in a legalistic way. They can become tools used to control others. Thus they miss the spirit of the Law, driving people further from God instead of closer to him.

So while Jesus has just liberated this lame man from four decades of incapacitation, his liberation is not met with celebration because of Jewish religious legalism. And Jesus knows exactly what he has done. His command, "take up your bed and walk," was a direct attack on legalism that missed the spirit of the fourth commandment in the Law — doing good to a fellow brother and celebrating it with him.

This is a problem for every denomination, every church, every family, and every spiritual leader. Religious legalism, or the attempt to legislate behavior to get the results we want, will always drive people further from God. It might even keep us from seeing the miracles God wants to do, celebrating them when they happen, and enjoying their pleasure. So if you are a bit of a crab, crank, or curmudgeon lately, it's time to evaluate where that spirit is coming from. Because God is doing all kinds of incredible things, just like he did the last couple of weeks at Asbury University, that you might be missing because others aren't doing it the way you want them to.

ASK THIS: Are you crabby about something lately?

DO THIS: Identity why and confess any legalism in your heart.

PRAY THIS: Jesus, I confess...

PLAY THIS: God of Revival.

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Read through the Bible daily with Vince Miller.

6 thoughts on “Stop Being A Crabby Legalist

  1. Chris Caliguire says:

    Awesome awesome awesome. I was just conversing in the past few days about how the Jews were probably trying to ramp up their obedience, and how much do we in America try to ramp up our spirit of obedience to thank God for his salvation in a way that pleases Him? I’d say the Jews had us beat in their efforts and fear. Thankfully if we can daily activate the spirit inside of us to guide our thoughts, words, actions of our day, we have them beat 😊 Thank you Jesus for guiding your silly sheep! Amen

  2. Mike Pare says:

    Please re-install the ‘All In’ small group questions on the Florida Retreat in the app

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