Sick of Religion? Week 5: Devotional Day 4
DAY 4 – Thursday
The Pharisees are upset in this story when Jesus’ followers don’t keep to their traditions and rules, even though the behavior of Jesus’ disciples is in accord with Scripture. When have you judged or experienced judgment in a “Pharisaical” way?
Before we ask the question of when we have judged or experienced judgment in a ‘Pharisaical’ way, it is important to ask the question why. Why are the Pharisees so obsessed with their legalism? Why do we sometimes also get caught in the same?
Mark Buchanan in his book on Sabbath entitled The Rest of God provides an answer that is worth quoting here at length. He writes, “the attraction of legalism is its inherent rewards. Legalism feels good, in a perverse sort of way. It strokes our egos, fills us with the pleasure of achievement, knowing we spelled all the words correctly, and in such a nice, tidy script to boot. And it’s even better if we accomplish this where others have failed. It’s like winning a race: it wouldn’t mean half as much—indeed, it wouldn’t mean anything—if our triumph didn’t imply others’ losses. The secret impetus behind legalism is its competitiveness.”
For me personally, one of the areas where I run into unhealthy competition is grades. I resonate with Buchanan’s description of the reward being even better at the expense of others. The good grade feels better when it wasn’t awarded to everyone in the class. But getting a good grade shouldn’t be the main goal. During my orientation week at seminary, the president of the school, Dennis Hollinger, said, “You can get straight As and still fail seminary.” Are you loving God with your whole being? Are you loving your neighbor? That is what really matters. Jesus calls the Pharisees out on this in Matthew 23:23-24 as they have gotten so caught up in the little things, that they forgot the big picture. Back to this week’s key passage in Mark, the Pharisees were quick to point out something they thought the disciples were doing wrong, without seeing that the disciples were doing what was right in the big picture, namely following Jesus.
 Mark Buchanan, The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2006), 108.