Emphasizing the Physical

Text: Matthew 12:1-14


I.         Schools have been placed in tough positions in the recent years

            A.        They are told to keep religion out of schools. Almost every direct form of discipline has been forbidden to them.

                        1.         The natural result is the steady decline in the moral standards of their students.

                        2.         In response the community demands the school educate their children in moral judgment – yet still without a standard or a means to enforce them.

            B.        At times it becomes almost laughable. Principles and school boards implement zero-tolerance codes that lead ridiculous decisions.

                        1.         We don’t want knives in schools, so all blades longer than 1 ½ inch will result in a suspension. Then the honor-roll student is suspended for bringing a butter knife in her lunch bag.

                        2.         Guns are bad, so all guns and even references to guns in school will result in suspension. Then a child, in doing an assignment of drawing an inanimate object, chooses to draw a gun and is sent home.

                        3.         Sexual harassment is bad, so a first grader is removed from school for kissing a girl on the playground.

            C.        Since they cannot refer to a moral code, schools are forced into making rules on acceptable and unacceptable behavior.

                        1.         The emphasis is on the physical action, leaving out all moral judgment.

                        2.         The result is ridiculous decisions that go against common sense because common sense is based on moral sense.

II.        The Pharisees were much the same way.

            A.        They strongly desired that everyone keep God’s laws. To facilitate this, they expounded on God’s laws, giving objective, practical examples.

            B.        Matthew 23:23 - Emphasizing tithing (something seen) over moral laws (something intangible)

            C.        Matthew 15:2 - A tradition to wash before eating. A useful tradition, but it was not a law of God. Much like zero-tolerance.

            D.        Matthew 12 involves a discussion of the Sabbath that illustrates this - Matthew 12:1-14

                        1.         The Pharisees emphasis on Sabbath keeping caused them to issue decrees that broke another of God’s commands - Deuteronomy 23:24-25

                        2.         Notice that Jesus said that their issuance of commands caused them to lose sight of reason for the commands. - Matthew 12:7

                        3.         He proved this by showing them that they would rescue an animal on the Sabbath, but not rescue a human from suffering on the same day - Matthew 12:11-14

            E.        The Pharisees had lost the knowledge of why the commands existed, their moral basis, and so had difficulty in justly applying the commands to various situations.

III.       I’ve seen Christians do the same thing

            A.        Arousing passion between unmarried couples is wrong, so some parents make a rule banding all kissing until you’re married.

                        1.         The goal is noble, but the rule emphasizes the physical.

                        2.         Young people in confusion rightly ask, “What is wrong with a chaste goodnight kiss?”

                                    a.         It is a good question.

                                    b.         If all kissing is wrong before marriage

                                                (1)       What about those kisses mom gave us before bed?

                                                (2)       Why was I forced to give Aunt Bertha a peck on the check?

                                                (3)       Why did Paul say to greet each other with a holy kiss? (Romans 16:16; I Corinthians 16:20; II Corinthians 13:12; I Thessalonians 5:26)

                        3.         Oops! In emphasizing the physical, we ended up with a rule that contradicted the teachings in the Bible!

            B.        I understand where this comes from. It is easier to make specific rules than to discuss topics such as lust and sexuality.

                        1.         Yet, it is the spiritual principles that need to be taught.

                        2.         If a person understands the danger of unbridled lust, then there is no difficulty in determining the difference between a long, passionate kiss and a chaste goodnight kiss.

                        3.         The same guiding principles have broader application.

                                    a.         None of this “You didn’t say not to!” business.

                                    b.         We know the difference between a 5-year-old girl cuddling up in a grownup’s lap for a story and a 14-year-old cuddling up in an 18-year-old’s lap.

            C.        I’ve heard rules, such as Christians should not wear shorts.

                        1.         It is true, I’ve seen immodest shorts. But I’ve also seen immodest dresses.

                        2.         I often wonder why these same folk have illustrations in their children’s studies of characters from the Bible with knee-length outfits.

                        3.         Rather than making a rule on the physical, we should be teaching the spiritual principles involved in selecting clothing.

            D.        Other rules

                        1.         Mixed bathing is wrong.

                        2.         Jeans are not appropriate attire in worship

                        3.         Don’t drink alcohol

            E.        The rules are made with good intentions, but they emphasize the physical and allow people to lose sight of the spiritual teachings behind them.

                        1.         Example, is it wrong to take Nyquil, which contains 25% alcohol?

                        2.         Example, I twice preached in blue jeans and stocking feet in New York due to snow storms. Was that inappropriate?

IV.      God’s teachings involve knowledge of spiritual principles - I Corinthians 2:6-15

            A.        The reason people are unable to understand the laws of God is because they look at the laws from a physical, fleshly viewpoint.

            B.        Yet the world decays. Only the spiritual builds - II Corinthians 4:16

            C.        Or put another way, the physical is hostile to the spiritual - Romans 8:6-7

            D.        This is why men had so much difficulty with the teachings of Christ

                        1.         The destruction of the temple - John 2:19-20

                        2.         Being born again - John 3:3-4

                        3.         Living water - John 4:10-11

                        4.         Food - John 4:31-34

                        5.         We could go on, but each illustrates people taking Jesus’ words and applying physical meanings instead of looking for the spiritual teaching.

            E.        This is why we must be careful to teach as Christ taught - Colossians 2:6-8

V.        It is tempting to “simplify” God’s teachings into a set of rules

            A.        Do those, don’t do these, and you will get to heaven.

            B.        The problem is that simplification leads to more and more rules, because a single rule rooted in the physical world cannot capture the meaning of the spiritual world.

                        1.         We do it in our governments - compare the constitution to the laws on the books. Or better, compare the amendment allowing income taxes versus the IRS tax code.

                        2.         Is it a wonder that man can’t grasp the spiritual meaning with their own rules?

            C.        When we grasp the meaning, God’s laws become clearer and more marvelous.

                        1.         God’s laws do capture the spiritual meaning, clearly and simply.

                        2.         It should spur us to keep our fingers out of the works, we can never improve on what God has done.

            D.        We might come up with rules for our lives to govern our behavior, but never make the mistake to think that our rules are God’s rules. These are our conclusions

                        1.         We must not teach our rules, our conclusions.

                        2.         It is critical that we teach God’s principles so boundaries remain clear.