Friday, April 25, 2008

Hanging on to the Rules

Did you know…

•In Smallville, South Carolina, it is illegal for a dog to wear sneakers.
•Residents of Sprinkle, Oregon, can be fined $50 for playing croquet in the rain.
•It is against the law to slurp your soup in a public eating place in New Jersey.
•It is illegal to remove your shoes if your feet smell while you’re in a theater in Winnetka, Illinois.
•It is illegal to ride a bike into a swimming pool in Baldwin Park, California.

I’m sure those rules have a history somehow connected to them. Some of them even make sense—like the one about not taking off your shoes if you feet smell! But, I can also say with a great measure of certainty that some of those laws are outdated and are no longer enforced. At least I hope police officers have better things to do than enforcing such outdated rules and laws. I think it is also safe for me to say that more than likely, many citizens of those towns wouldn’t even know those laws are still on the books.

So, why do we hang on to them? Why hang on to such archaic rules and laws? Why not draft a petition or resolution or something to update the books? Well, if you’ve followed politics for long, you know that once something becomes a law, it’s often difficult to make it go away.

You may have read about the sign found on an old country road. The sign read: “Ruts in the road ahead. Choose your rut carefully. You’ll be in it a while!”

If I were to update that sign today, I would probably warn readers this way: “Ruts in the rules ahead! Choose the rut carefully or else you’ll never find a way out!”

In truth, the silly rules, the old way of doing things, is really nothing new under the sun, is it? Jesus often faced people who were stuck in a rut. And sadly, many of those people who were stuck in a rut were the religious leaders of the day. Too many of those leaders didn’t understand an important life truth—even though rules are good, there’s more to life than rules.

Think back to one lesson Jesus taught the people about the Sabbath and picking grain. “One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, ‘Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?’ He answered, ‘Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.’ Then he said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath’” (Mark 2:23–28).

Let’s take a moment to better understand what happened here and why. Jesus’ disciples did something the Mosaic Law permitted when they picked the grain (see Deut. 23:25). However, when they picked the grain on a Sabbath day, they violated a traditional Pharisaic interpretation of the law.

The Pharisees were quick to point out the disciples’ mistake and Jesus’ mistake for not correcting His followers. However, as we unpack what the Pharisees said, we quickly see that they—not Jesus and His disciples—were wrong for two reasons. First of all, the Pharisees did not distinguish which laws were more important, the Mosaic Laws or their own Pharisaic Laws. They basically accepted that their rules, their laws, their self-created ruts, were equal with the laws and rules given by God to Moses. How arrogant and self-righteous is that?

The Pharisees were wrong for a second reason as well. The Pharisees did not believe that Jesus had the right to provide for His disciples’ physical needs because doing so violated the Pharisee’s tradition governing ritual worship. The disciples should have just remained hungry rather than Jesus providing for their physical needs.

If you read carefully what the Pharisees said, you realize just how many ruts they had placed on the Sabbath day. Their ruts, their rules and laws, basically inhibited the Jews more than providing them any sense of freedom or joy. The Sabbath day became a list of don’ts, not a list of do’s from God. The Sabbath day became a day to dread, not a day to relax and enjoy.

I have no doubt that Jesus was right to point out that God had given the Sabbath as a good gift to His children. From the very beginning of time, God had designed the Sabbath to be a day that was set aside to free people from labor and to give them an opportunity to rest. You must understand, at the very heart of Jesus’s argument is this life truth: Since God made a day of rest for man, it is up to God to determine the rules related to the day—not man.

Then again, that idea, that God is in charge and not man, hey, doesn't that apply to every thing in life? I think so!


  1. Steve, welcome to the world of blogging! I have often challenged myself with this very passage when I found myself judging others for what they do on Sundays. I have another little twist to add to this passage and will post on it soon. I think you'll like it quite a bit. When I do, I link this post to mine.

    Thanks for dropping by my site and leaving your footprint so I could find you. selahV

  2. Mrs. V.

    Thanks for your visit and your kind post! Also, thank you for your "sweet" post on the Reese's, you've really touched my heart...and stomach!

  3. And likewise, thank's for the footprint on my site too! Good words, as I too, often become stuck in a rut.

    John in St. Louis

  4. Thanks for checking out the site. As you see, I'm new to this world, so any suggestions you have would be appreciated!

  5. Thanks for the comment @ BranchPastor!

    Good blog on rules. I once heard a preacher friend say, "If you are teaching a bunch of rules and do not's you have a ministry of death."

    Keep it up!



Thank you for sharing your thoughts! I can't wait to read what you have written.