There is an old joke about a spiritual person who has a house that is hit by a flood. Everyone has advanced warning of this flood and flees, but the spiritual person waits for God to save him from the flood. After some time, the water rises and the spiritual person has relocated to the roof of the house and a boat comes to him and the operator encourages this person trapped by the water to get into the boat. The person refuses because he is waiting for God to save him. The waters rise and the roof is almost under water and a helicopter comes with a life line and the person refuses the rescue. This person eventually drowns and upon meeting with God the person asks “God why did you not rescue me?!” and God responds “I sent you warnings of a flood, a boat, and a helicopter rescue what more did you want?” This joke is usually told as a challenge to some religious person who is waiting on God or is seeking God’s will in a situation.
While amusing this joke has a flaw that makes it irrelevant to the majority of people who are waiting on God. This joke highlights a situation where there is a purely physical situation that requires a physical solution. The failure of the joke is that people are both physical and spiritual so most problems are both spiritual and physical. So, seeking a completely spiritual response to a physical need is not relevant to how life works. What is real however is the opposite of this joke. People are almost always seeking a physical intervention to a spiritual predicament. Rarely does anyone wait on God for his solution to the problem of life. We chase after purely physical interventions like idols, crystals, superstition, self help gurus, money, lovers, and drugs to comfort us in our failed spiritual conditions. This happens inside the church to spiritual people as well and it take on the form of rules and laws. The thought goes like this “If I follow these rules then I will be hashtag blessed”
10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Galatians 3:10 ESV
Laws are wonderful. They provide order and protection in an evil world. When there is a breakdown of laws then violence and poverty increase. This increase in poverty and anarchy is the physical result of unrighteousness, or lawlessness, that is in the spiritual heart nature of mankind when unchecked. The laws prove that I am lawless. It is impossible for me to live a life that follows all laws perfectly from birth until death. I hate and I lie which leaves me under a curse. But even if I tried to follow the law perfectly the law is only one part of understanding our predicament before God.
Jesus highlighted this problem directly to the religious leaders of his time. These leaders followed to the letter laws and customs but their spiritual state was an ugly mess. While they may have kept the “law” they were evil and mean-spirited people. They had perfected the physical response while neglecting their spiritual condition.
27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. Matthew 23:27-28 ESV
The problem people miss when discussing the law is that the lawlessness is the physical outcome of a spiritual problem. Trying to live to the letter of the law without first solving the spiritual condition is the criticism that Jesus had to the Pharisees. They “outwardly appear beautiful” following the law and customs. But Jesus continued “within [they] are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” because they never confronted the spiritual side of the problem. God understanding this problem provided his Holy Spirit to mankind in order that we might live by the spirit. This means that we might be transformed starting on the inside and then following the law would be a natural overflow into the physical.
5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— 6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? Galatians 3:5-6 ESV
Is God at work in our lives because we follow the law? Or Is God at work in our lives because we believed and trusted in him? The law is the physical overflow of what occurred because we first trusted him by faith in the spiritual.