Why We Like Legalism

We humans like legalism, whether we want to admit to it or not. As Christians, it’s best we stay away from legalism, but when we take our eyes off of Jesus and His grace, we very quickly spiral back down into the pit of attempting to save ourselves.

That’s really what legalism is… us making a bunch of rules in order to feel satisfied in ourselves that we’re not breaking those rules… and in turn thinking we’re on good terms with God because we’ve kept those rules.

This morning, after discussing the story of King Rehoboam (1 Kings 11-12) with some great friends, I later saw something that clicked in my mind concerning legalism and Rehoboam’s story.

Rehoboam was the son of King Solomon (the third king of Israel). Just before Solomon’s death, another dude, Jeroboam, begin to rise up and was even prophesied over that he would receive part of the kingdom. Jeroboam was quickly dealt with and was momentarily out of the picture (removed physically, but not killed).

So Solomon dies and Rehoboam is anointed king.

Now Rehoboam has a decision to make. How will he rule the kingdom? Will he rule as his father did, with a pretty heavy hand, or will he lighten up a bit?

Rehoboam confers with the council of elders (who served with Solomon) as well as the council of friends (who were young guys just like Rehoboam).

His decision: to be even more heavy and harsh than his father Solomon.

And the people’s response: rebellion.

What clicked in my mind was this (and this is ONLY a possibility… not saying this is actually what happened). Could it be that Rehoboam decided to become more heavy-handed with the people because he felt that that was the best way to deal with a possible rebellion (ie. Jeroboam)?

Is it possible that he wanted to put more rules and restrictions in place in order to prevent rebellious actions?

I think that’s often how legalism starts. It starts with putting boundaries up to guard ourselves… but then those boundaries become steadfast rules that we expect everyone to keep… which breeds legalism.

Legalism only leads to rebellion, but grace (the kindness of God) lead’s us to repentance.

We like legalism because it really is our attempt to be in control… of rebellion… in others… and in our own lives. When really, what we need is grace. Grace takes the control out of our hands and keeps it where it really is… in God’s hands. We can’t initially earn grace, thus we can’t do anything more to get more.

So in our lives… it’s important we allow Holy Spirit to do a good heart-check. Are we living and preaching legalism… so that we can control rebellion? Or are we giving up control, and introducing people to Jesus and His grace.

Rules by themselves don’t fix people, God’s grace does.