Matthew 12:24-25a, Love Over Legalism

Matthew 12:24-25a, “But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, ‘It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.’ Jesus knew their thought…” (NIV)

The Bible offers up so many blessings. It can bring about moral wisdom. It can produce daily motivation. It can foster joy, hope, and faith. These are but a few of the benefits of knowing God’s Word. But realizing these biblical blessings demands that we search Scripture with a humble heart, and a serving spirit. So what happens when God’s Word is sought with a corrupt heart, and false motives? Matthew 12 yields some insight into the matter, and it should jolt all believers.

Many religious leaders, per the gospel accounts, attacked Jesus directly, or indirectly, because they were more concerned with legalism, rather than love. They cherished rules, but essentially rejected a relationship with God. Their stubborn-hearted approach to Scripture, one that was very rigid, left no room for the prompting of God. Somehow fiercely reciting the Word blinded them to the work of Christ before them. The point being, the clergy knew the Mosaic law, but somehow they did not know the Lord. There was mastery of Hebrew canon, but no fellowship with the Creator.  

The whole legalism mindset of the religious leaders was very rewards-based. And that reward largely came in the form of control (over the masses), or recognition (by the masses). Sadly, this is a default state of man. We like to pursue reward instead of engaging a contributing heart. In the flesh, we want to make life about taking, not giving. To make life about ourselves, and not God. But Christ took that carnal philosophy and turned it upside-down. To please God is to serve Him. And to serve Him is to serve our fellow man. But somewhere along the road of believing and doing the will of God we can get sidetracked with self-pleasing behavior. We find it easier to tear down rather than build up. We find it easier to judge and dismiss than forgive, or practice grace. And this typifies everything about many of the religious leaders Jesus rebuked. But don’t we behave the same way at times? So which life will we choose? The life of godly character, or the life of self-fulfilling character?

Kevin Orr (10/5/2018)

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