Spirit vs. Letter

While at my aunt and uncle’s house for a holiday with the relatives when I was like, 9 or so, most of my cousins and I were down in the basement watching the newest Veggietales movie my cousin Rel had brought with her.

I don’t remember when I was told, but I do remember was being told to go take a shower after the intermission silly song. I was reluctant, but rushed upstairs and took the shower. However I thought to save time so I could go down and finish watching the movie. So all I did was take my hair out of the braid after the shower.

When I got down to the basement again, the movie was almost done anyway, to my disappointment. My cousin took one look at my hair and said “Did you even wash your hair? Go back up and wash your hair.” So I again went upstairs and this time washed my hair as well.

 

As I look back on that occasion, I can clearly see it was an example of obeying the letter of the law, but not the spirit of the law. When one obeys the literal interpretation of the words, but not the intent of the command, one is only obeying the letter of the law (or command), but fully disregarding why the law or command was given.

The Pharisees showed themselves to be examples of following the letter of the Law rather that the Spirit of the Law, when they put the actual laws above the intent of the Law.

19 Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made….21 Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law….23 But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. 24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.

The law was given to show us how much we needed a Savior, that we couldn’t be perfect on our own. To lead us to the fact that we needed Jesus Christ, who fills us and helps us become more like Him. Once Jesus was crucified, once he died and took all of our sins, we no longer needed the Law to get to eternity with Him. 

Yet the Pharisees held on to the written law, keeping it close to their minds and closing their hearts to the knowledge that Jesus was foretold in the Old Testament, as the spotless Lamb who would open a gateway towards a lifetime (and more!) with Him.

When we obey a command, whether spiritual or from an earthly authority, we need to make sure we are obeying the full spirit of the law, not just the letter of the law.

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Enjoy the silly song from the movie my cousins and I were watching.

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