In his book How Should I Live in This World? R.C. Sproul addresses why Christians often tend to legalism and fall prey to the tendency to major on the minors. Christians, Dr. Sproul writes, want to be recognized for their growth in sanctification and righteousness, so they like to develop or insist upon “rules,” because the keeping of these rules make easy measuring rods for our growth.
The Pharisees are perhaps most well known for this behavior, but they are by no means the only ones guilty. Have you ever used a record, literal or figurative, positive or negative, of your behavior–I do not go to the movies, I do not drink alcohol, I do not work on Sundays; or I tithe ten percent of every dollar I receive, I read one Proverb and one OT and one NT chapter every day, and I attend church every Sunday without fail–as a means of justifying your spiritual development? Do you ever use such measuring rods to compare yourself to others? I have to admit that I am guilty.
Dr. Sproul makes the point that we tend toward this kind of behavior because it is easier and, in many ways cheaper, to abstain from certain behaviors or to practice certain habits than it is to invest our lives in the pursuit of justice and mercy, to develop the fruits of the Spirit, to conquer pride in our lives, or covetousness, or anger, or gossip or greed…. “We tend to give God the cheapest gifts,” he writes.
You may never have thought of it that way. I do not think that I did. None of us would ever intentionally be so presumptuous or arrogant as to offer God the cheapest rather than the best, would we? Yet we may do exactly that when we satisfy ourselves with keeping the rules rather than humbly and consistently pressing forward, acknowledging our sins and seeking the face of God.