Today’s Scripture: Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh. Colossians 2:20–23

While driving to a church service in Australia, a man was pulled over and fined $50. His offense? Eating a chocolate bar behind the wheel. The policeman said he had been holding the steering wheel with two fingers while he was holding the chocolate bar in his other hand. Plus, the chocolate bar was so good it took his mind away from his driving.

While it is good to be zealous about our work (and especially our faith in Christ), zeal without knowledge can be dangerous. It will cause us to fall into legalism where we blow things out of proportion, majoring on the minors and minoring on the majors. It is easy for us to get caught up in this way of thinking when we lose our perspective of what’s important. In the Bible, the Pharisees struggled with legalism. They thought they (and everyone else) had to keep the Jewish law perfectly to be saved. While they tried so hard to keep the law, they ignored other areas of their lives where they fell short, such as loving their neighbors.

Christians can be just as guilty as the unsaved Pharisees when it comes to legalistic practices. We do not use these practices as requirements for salvation, but we often (wrongly) use them as the basis for other believers’ spirituality. Some examples of this include demanding that others put our desires, opinions, or feelings above their own and having no tolerance for disagreement with our own views, traditions, or standards. This is wrong. True spirituality comes from the heart, not from following (or even agreeing with) a set of manmade rules and standards.

Whether we like to admit it or not, we all have some legalism in us. The only way to get rid of it is to pray for a gracious, understanding heart. Knowledge with zeal will help us concentrate on what’s important.

Devotional by Dr. James A. Scudder