Why All the Rules?
The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. Mark 2:27
I remember once thinking that God made a lot of rules against things that I really wanted to do. I assumed at the time that he just made these rules arbitrarily so that we would have boundaries – like drawing a line on the ground only to tell a toddler not to cross it. The boundaries he set seemed (to me) to exist only for the purpose of finding if I’d listen or not. I thought the rules existed just for the purpose of being rules.
Then, I began to discover consequences. I found that following me was painful and that though following God was more difficult initially, it was far less miserable. Going my way, breaking the rules, was fun for a time, but led only to despair, self-hatred, and destruction of everything I loved.
In today’s passage, Jesus explained that the rules of the father were established for our good, not just to be arbitrary rules. In the story, Jesus’ disciples picked grain to eat on the Sabbath. This was technically work and was forbidden in the ten commandments. Jesus explained that for his men to have starved, just to observe the rules, would miss the point of the rules. God’s commands exist for our good. We don’t exist for the purpose of the commands.
When God says I’m supposed to be filled with him instead of alcohol (Ephesians 5:18), he knows the mess I’ll make in my addiction. When he tells me to be faithful to my wife (Hebrews 13:4), it’s because he can see the pain that will come if I’m not. When I’m told not to be ruled by my anger (James 1:19-20), it’s because my anger breeds destruction.
In following our way today – even if it feels good – we grow tomorrow’s misery. Living within God’s boundaries may mean we must abandon our will, but it’s the only way to find the faith, joy, life, and recovery that God intends for us. Our nature though, is to rebel against this self-sacrifice. I must be true to myself! I must do it my way! God allows this. He also allows us the pain of consequence. He uses the misery of those consequences to turn us back to him, which is where we were supposed to be all along.