You see, there is a story in Matthew 19:16-22 which details how a young rich man came unto Jesus and asked, “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” Jesus then list off some commandments, to which the young man replied, “I’ve kept them all from my youth.”
Jesus then got to the true heart of the matter (pun intended) by telling the man to sell all his goods and give the money to the poor, then follow Him. But as Scripture points out, it was all about deeds, not compassion for others or following Christ; it was about pride and the rich young man’s wealth. He wanted to check off all the lists, but not because he cared.
Legalism does that to people. They often care more, worry more, about a list of things they can’t do and must do, but thinking that all that really matters to God is that the list is checked off. It’s not written on the heart, but in the head, yet it’s from the heart that men worship and serve and care.
When your job amounts to doing only what’s necessary to keep the boss off your back or to keep a paycheck coming, you’re being as legalistic as any church-goer who claims to be a Christian because he does all the expected things. And what’s even worse is when you judge the heart of others in the light of your checked-off list.
What are some other examples you can think of?