Following the Rules for All the Wrong Reasons
The scribes and the Pharisees watched him, to see whether he would heal on the Sabbath, so that they might find a reason to accuse him. Luke 6:7
As much as I don’t like to admit it, as a kid, I was a people-pleaser. I followed what I believed to be the rules, not because I truly wanted to do what was right, but rather, because I got something out of it. In being a good kid, I received the affirmation I desired. I thought I was following God, but in reality, it was my nature to be a good kid out of selfish motives. To the observer, it looked like I was following God, which is what I hoped for. All the while, I was still following me.
The Pharisees similarly followed the rules with ulterior motives. In today’s passage, they skulked near Jesus in the synagogue on the Sabbath. According to the law, the Sabbath day was to be a day of rest. The Pharisees watched, hoping Jesus would heal someone, so they could accuse him of “working” on the Sabbath. They didn’t care about the man with the crippled hand and they didn’t care about God’s will. They cared only about “the rules” which they used to accuse Jesus.
As Christians, it’s dreadfully tempting follow the rules like a Pharisee. It’s easy to hold up the big sins – that we don’t struggle with – as evidence of our faith. Thank God I don’t drink, smoke, swear, or gamble. I’m not like those sinners. Look at my life! What a great Christian I am! In not struggling with the really bad sins we feel good about ourselves and we look down on those losers who don’t follow the rules as we do.
In this behavior, we’re not following God. We’re following our pride. For many Christians, pride is a far worse addiction that drugs, alcohol, lust, money, or food. In our self-worship, we elevate the rules above all, defining faith by the stuff we don’t do. Meanwhile, we fail to love God or our neighbors and we certainly don’t deny ourselves daily to follow Christ.
The point of the passage isn’t that we should throw away the rules. The point is that we must continually interrogate our motives, following the father – not ourselves – above all. Rule following is just another self-addiction that distracts from him.