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What we know: Jesus is direct with us about twisting God’s words and using them to our advantage. Jesus knows what His Father said and meant. We do too. We can’t weasel out by trying to change the intent. Jesus challenges us to not be religious. It is all about knowing God, listening to God and doing what our loving Father wants us to.

Obedience is preferred over sacrifice.

May I believe what God has said and act on it.

Abandoning the command of God, you hold on to human tradition.” He also said to them, “You have a fine way of invalidating God’s command in order to set up your tradition! 10 For Moses said: Honor your father and your mother; and Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must be put to death. But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or mother: Whatever benefit you might have received from me is corban’ ” (that is, an offering devoted to God), “you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. You nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many other similar things.” | Christian Standard Bible. (2020). (Mk 7:8–13). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

The apostle Paul warns us of legalism in Colossians 2:20-23:

“Since you died with the Messiah to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: ‘Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!’? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

Legalists may appear to be righteous and spiritual, but legalism ultimately fails to accomplish God’s purposes because it is an outward performance instead of an inward change.

To avoid falling into the trap of legalism, we can start by holding fast to the words of the apostle John, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus the Messiah” (John 1:17) and remembering to be gracious, especially to our brothers and sisters in the Messiah. “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Master is able to make him stand” (Romans 14:4). “You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat” (Romans 14:10).

  • Matthew 16:6 — 6 And Jesus said to them, “Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
  • Matthew 16:12 — 12 Then they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
  • Galatians 4:10–11 — 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years. 11 I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain.
  • Galatians 5:2–4 — 2 Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, the Messiah will be of no benefit to you. 3 And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. 4 You have been severed from the Messiah, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.