Legalism Isn’t Just a Religious Term

Are You a Lawyer?

Two weeks ago at our local farmer’s market, a lady was interested in my art. After talking for a moment, she asked if I had a business card I could give her. Of course!

Now, this week I am set to receive my new business cards for Wall Hole Coverings, but all I had at that time showed information about me as a pastor. But even though they are my church cards, they do have under my phone number the web address for this blog.

When the lady read “The Recovering Legalist,” as often is the case, she asked, “Are you a lawyer?” To which I replied, “No, I’m a pastor, but that’s my personal blog.”

Then, with a sort of a belittling tone, she said, “Oh, so it’s religious, then.” To which I replied, “No, not entirely.”

More than Religious

You see, the context of this blog and much of my writing is, most certainly, weighted toward the spiritual. Yet, when I talk about “legalism,” I’m also referring to a dangerous kind of behavior that affects nearly every walk of life.

From a religious perspective, legalism, simply put, is the practice of gauging one’s spirituality by man-made standards, particularly the checking off of a list of do’s-and-don’ts.

On the other hand, there are plenty of other ways people can become legalistic in their treatment of others and the jobs they perform. And, quite frankly, many people run the risk of great harm because of legalism in the workplace.

How is that possible?

I’ll give you some examples tomorrow.

Until then, can you think of some examples of potentially harmful legalism on the job?


Filed under legalism

16 responses to “Legalism Isn’t Just a Religious Term

  1. Legalism in the new testament way is to believe you are right with God cause of your works and daily discipline rather than the a pardon bought by Jesus Christ on the cross allowing you face time with God again. Still people then abuse that to suggest there is no morals to have or a need to drop their contempt for God and live legally free in their mind because of a rule that Jesus says if you are free you are free.
    Legalism in the way I think your meaning here is when you judge people on their daily discipline and have a contempt for people looking at them and living with them with a chip on your shoulder. Holier than thou.. It can come from having some success in your discipline and looking down on others you think don’t have your wonderfulness.

  2. Legalism in the new testament way is to believe you are right with God cause of your works and daily discipline rather than the a pardon bought by Jesus Christ on the cross allowing you face time with God again. Still people then abuse that to suggest there is no morals to have or a need to drop their contempt for God and live legally free in their mind because of a rule that Jesus says if you are free you are free.

  3. still having trouble with posting a comment more than one line.

      • Still having problem with posting for some reason. but the rest of my comment is:
        Contempt can infect anyone from Pastors to subway riders. Once people start to look at others like the lower class relationships change. People can dehumanize. Teens do it. Parents become someone not worth giving their time too. Pastors may see Church people as spiritually uneducated, workers may start seeing people as unkept or getting on them if they don’t do work as fast as them. By making religion about being perfect and not about Trust in God, you end up becoming Judge and jury.

  4. A legalism would see Gods Grace as a character flaw. Grace breaks the rules. But really it explains a core rule of Love where forgiveness costs but you don’t pay for it. Love from another does. Unfortunately some will use someone elses lack of understanding of grace as a reason to bash and in their own way are legalists against those who are not as well educated on the matters of grace, as them. A baptist may look down on a Catholic with contempt rather than with mercy while trying to explain the finer points of grace through faith not through works.

  5. Stephen

    Legalism is a belief that written laws have any power. This gives way to the profession of being a “lawyer” which is nothing but a fancy term for a manipulator.
    Religious people love the law for that very reason, they love to manipulate.
    They see Jesus Himself as nothing but writings in a book, they call the book by His name and set off to impose their views on everyone else, but they themselves don’t live as Christ. But they are always justified in themselves using their bound paperback Jesus to absolve themselves.
    It’s where those behind the orange buffoon got their playbook. They just use the same tactics clergy uses on lay people. Then they use the religious people to justify their lies.
    Legalistic people love Trump and all that he stands for because they, like him, are manipulators.
    Manipulation is witchcraft plain and simple.
    Who are you manipulating today under the cloak of a loving god?

    • Stephen, you’re a trip. I’m no longer offended at your accusations; I’m sad you’re so blinded by hate.

      • Stephen

        Au contraire Anthony. No hate, just obvious observations. What hate does is solicit funds from gullible people in order to establish a platform that it may perpetuate it’s hate. And profit a little from it.
        Religious people, the left and the right ate masters of this deception.

      • Mmmhmmm. Riiight. Flatly accuse me of manipulation, witchcraft, and deception without any evidence aside from your “observations,” and I guess I’m to suppose you’re doing it from a heart of love? If you ONLY KNEW what went on here JUST THIS LAST WEEK. You’re no different than a racist who can’t see past your own prejudices.

  6. Stephen

    So I take it the answer to my question on manipulation is “nobody”?
    You could of answered with just that.
    But I’ve read enough of your writings that I see that a little different. Just my opinion.
    But just like you, I’ve been known to be wrong and make mistakes?
    Now I’m also assuming from your writings that you don’t always get it right, missed the mark one could say.
    Now a racist is someone who judges another unfavourably just on account the card they were dealt at birth, not based on someones actions or beliefs.
    So your straw man argument about race has nothing to do with the conversation at hand. Unless you want to discuss your disgust with the new christian buzz, critical race theory. lol

    No, the discussion at hand is manipulation in the name of God.
    Feel free to share what happened just this last week. Do you believe it’s greater than what anyone might have gone through just this last week?

    • What I said about being like a racist is not a straw man argument. That’s nothing more than a semantic trick you use quite often. My observation, if anything has no less credibility than your own. And your definition of racism is just narrow enough to give you wiggle room out of what I see. In addition to your admittedly correct partial definition, racists also make assumptions based on the card dealt. In a similar way, to presume upon my personal character all the time, and that being because I am what I am – by choice or not.

      Now, what I do find ironic, as always is the case, you seem to know a whole lot about God, Jesus, theology, etc., but once you”re done judging another’s belief as invalid or spurious, you claim you have no real horse in the race. You clearly act on the knowledge you claim to have, yet you accuse me of every ill intent for acting upon mine.

      From the internet, I pulled this definition of “manipulation.” “Manipulation is the exercise of harmful influence over others. People who manipulate others attack their mental and emotional sides to get what they want. … But manipulation is defined as any attempt to sway someone’s emotions to get them to act or feel a certain way.”

      So, where do you draw the line? Is it wrong for me to do my dead-level best to persuade men that it is true what Jesus said in John 14:6, but perfectly acceptable for motion pictures to promote and potentially sway unsuspected viewers in the direction of an ideology that purports many ways to God? Again, it would seem to me that the root is what’s at the heart.

      I don’t try to manipulate unsuspecting people; that’s antithetical to the very concept of coming to faith in Christ by one’s own volition. If I had to trick people into putting their faith in Jesus Christ, their faith would be worthless. So, to accuse me on a regular basis of that very thing means that you really put no value in my repeated attempts to be honest and transparent.

      The last thing you wrote – “Do you believe it’s greater than what anyone might have gone through just this last week?” – also misses the mark. What I dealt with this past week – and even now – is not to be compared to anything anyone else has gone through. For that matter, I NEVER take the position of “if you think that’s bad, you should have seen…” My context (which is not up for disclosure) involves dealing with OTHERS’ brokenness and pain with a compassionate heart, all the while incurring my own wounds in the process (that’s real ministry, btw).

      I hate to kinda laugh, but it’s really almost like I understand what the guests on an episode of Jerry Springer must feel when they yell out “You don’t know me!” Stephen, really, to borrow from my favorite movie, you keep using that word, but I don’t think you know what it means.

  7. Stephen

    Which word are you talking about? Which word is it I don’t know the meaning of?
    As for dealing with others brokenness and pain, well that’s a daily occurrence for most everyone else.
    Does a compassionate heart come against a people who have been marginalized and discriminated against for over 400 years when they finally find a voice? Or perhaps threatening eternal punishment to those who live or believe as another? Or perhaps insisting on giving a different perspective when a young man is mudered by police? Maybe letting those who are gay know that their love is not love? Perhaps I should go further back in your confessions and where else your compassionate heart is at work.
    Perhaps your love of the Jerry Springer show explains your need to defend the orange buffoon.
    What a cliche, another churchman who’s favourite movie is princess bride.
    Now, since your a “bible man” you should know better then to post a picture of a church building and try to pass it off as the house of God.
    That’s not being honest.
    I’ve got the whole day off if you’d like to continue this discussion.
    My wife got a job after 20 years of taking care of us all, so I’ve got some time to waste.

    • I remember going to marital counseling with my wife. The problem, as it is with so many others, was poor communication skills. We were taught to listen first, then repeat back what we thought we heard the person say, thereby giving the spouse the opportunity to clarify if there was any confusion. Your comment reminds me of the way my wife used to argue. There was no talking to her when she misinterpreted everything I said. Thankfully, we got past those early years. But you? Well, I don’t think my insurance would cover us going together.

      Here are some examples of what I’m talking about: 1) “your love for Jerry Springer”; 2) “As for dealing with pain, …”; 3) trying to pass of a church building as the house of God. There are even the overly-simplistic representations of previous posts. And you even think taking a swipe at my choice for favorite (American spelling) movie is a worthwhile move?

      I am honestly happy for your wife and your family’s betterment of the situation you mention (I am assuming it was a good thing), but I don’t have that kind of time. We aren’t getting anywhere fast, I believe.

  8. Stephen

    I remember my wife wanting to go for counselling, I refused. We either put our trust in God or we don’t, was my stance on the matter.
    Jesus IS faithful.
    Sometimes the worst thing for a marriage is outside interference.

    As for my wife’s decision to be a homemaker, absolutely a great thing. It hurt financially, but Jesus IS faithful. He always makes a way.

    And as for the comment about princess bride, just an observation. Not sure what I hear most from church goers, Princess Bride the best movie or C.S Lewis the best author. Those who are indoctrinated with the same indoctrination, tend to repeat the same things.
    At some point, a person needs to ask themselves why they believe the things they believe. Most times they’re just parroting something someone else told them.

    You’re right about us Anthony, I don’t want anything to do with your religion.
    I stand by my initial comment on legalism and all that I wrote about it.
    You call yourself the recovering legalist, but I don’t see it.

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