And why didn’t he? Because God told him not to, that’s why. Too often tist seems to be the answer. Metaphorically speaking, of course.
When we were children our parents told us to stay out of the street, avoid all strangers and make sure we were home before dark. Of course, that’s because we were immature and unable to ascertain on our own what constituted safe and proper behavior.
As mature adults we (hopefully) can make those distinctions, but even so, we rarely adhere to the laws laid down by our parents. Safer though it may be, what would life be like without ever crossing the street or meeting new people? Not to mention other ‘dangerous’ activities like mountain climbing, sky diving, eating raw oysters or even driving the family car.
Maybe legalism is a necessary part of the maturing process, not only when it comes to life in general but also as it pertains to matters of faith. Although casting off the rules and regulations that govern our early childish lives results in a freedom that we would not willingly give up, it can be a very painful process. We feel anxious when we realize that we no longer are having our hands held, that we must make decisions on our own and are now expected to act responsibly, without the reassuring rules that once spelled everything out – to the letter. The busy road of life can look pretty scary to us chickens.
Phil Yancey, in “Reaching for the Invisible God”, suggests that one major downside to legalism, in our homes or in our faith, is that we tend to rebel against the authority who lays down the law; we invariably break the rules. We also like to keep score, see how we are stacking up against others (or how they are stacking up against us). St. Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, puts it this way:
Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. (emphasis mine) Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
In the short run; rules, both familial and religious,seem to work. For the long haul: rules don’t work. At least not with those who want to enjoy mature, loving and honest relationships with their parents – and with their God.