My friend and his wife have a pretty unique hobby: dumpster diving. They have certain stores’ schedules down pat, and every week they dive for things the employees put in the bins and video it all for YouTube. See, there are laws put in place to keep the public safe, laws that say when a store can and can’t sell and even donate items past the expiration dates. But once you get a system like that going in which perfectly good food is tossed for a date, pretty soon other things are tossed as well. In fact, it isn’t long before all kinds of valuable merchandise is going to waste. I was thinking about the set up, and part of 2 Corinthians 3:6 popped into my mind: “the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” When I thought about it some more, I saw how this whole situation is an analogy of the legalism of the Hebrew Roots Movement, also known as Torah Observance.
The Set Up
For stores, following the letter of the law is essential to continuing to operate as a business. Violating those laws can get a company fined or even shut down. And the laws ARE good. They keep stores on their toes. They make sure fresh merchandise is always on hand, and they protect people from illness and stores from getting sued.
But what following the letter doesn’t account for is the very real possibility that the food is still good when the date rolls around. Just like babies don’t know their due dates and will often come before or after the doctor predicts, food is much the same way. It’s an estimate, and often it is a conservative estimate so that products are high quality before the expiration date listed. Plus, when good food is thrown away in mass quantities, employees start to lose sight of the immorality of wasting quality items. They start to see the dumpster as an easy way to avoid the headache of unwanted merchandise or overcrowded shelves. In-date foods with cracked outer lids, in-date older stock, and even shoes, toys, and small appliances have all been trashed. Instead of dealing with those items, employees just throw them away: out of sight, out of mind.
But following the law without using good judgement only makes sense for stores that care more about getting in trouble with the law or dealing with unwanted products than they do about wasting valuable resources. People with different concerns would find a way to get the good things to the people who need it. It’s about priorities.
Some Christians today have stumbled upon a very old movement with a very new name. It’s called The Hebrew Roots Movement, or Torah Observance. In fact, the Council of Jerusalem was convened to talk about it in 50 AD. Paul, himself, wrote about it just a few years later when he wrote Galatians. In this movement, Christians were/are going back to the 613 laws of the Torah. Sin, they say, is breaking any one of those 613 laws. Now, ask anyone in the Hebrew Roots Movement, and he/she will claim that adherents are still saved by grace through faith alone in the shed blood of Christ. Following the law, they say, is simply the outpouring of their obedience now that they have been saved. It’s a way to honor Jesus and the life He lived. When any one of the laws is broken, it is simply a matter of repentance to get back to right standing again.
But what the people are failing to understand is that their focus then becomes on following the letter of the law that Jesus already fulfilled instead of following Jesus Himself. It’s all about priorities. Romans 8:6-7 says, “For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.” Either we are concerned with the world and the things in it (clean vs unclean meats, what to wear, how to keep the Sabbath and follow the feasts to the letter, etc.), or we are concerned with the Spirit and the things of Him. The focus the majority of our thinking becomes our god. Either that God is Jesus Christ, or it is legalism. We can’t serve two masters.
Plus, just like the employees that start to throw other things away too, the people who are involved in the Hebrew Roots Movement often start to add to even observance of the Torah. They say that God must be referred to only as Yahweh or Yah and Jesus only as Yeshua; otherwise, this is blasphemy. Some don’t even want to be referred to as Christians anymore. They encourage people, once joining the movement, to separate from local churches and other Christians who are not Torah Observant. They have great communities online in which they discuss every detail of the Law and how to follow it appropriately. It has become a completely different gospel.
Physical Vs Spiritual Israel
For the Jewish people, those 613 laws were good. They were a system of guidelines that the people followed as evidence that they were set apart for God. He required them, and following them ensured that the lines of communication were open with God. The ordinances and procedures were physical, and it was physically obvious who was following them and who wasn’t. But that was the Old Covenant with physical Israel. It was an object lesson, a concrete symbol of the spiritual obedience that would later be required.
While physical Israel was held to the 613 physical laws, modern day Christians – called Spiritual Israel – are expected to follow the Holy Spirit in complete submission. Our focus is to be be on worshiping and giving thanks to Jesus. We should always make sure our minds and hearts are right with Him. In 1 Corinthians 10:4-5, we read, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”
The New Covenant is not about physical compliance with ordinances and procedures in order to be right with God — or even to honor God. Our relationship with Jesus is what makes us right with Him. Ephesians 2:15 says about Christ, “having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace.” And, honoring Him is about giving Him glory and thanks. In 1 Corinthians 10:31, we read, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Colossians 3:17 says, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
We Are Held To A Different Covenant
Being “obedient” by following all 613 laws is impossible anyway right now because several involve animal sacrifices or how to treat people groups that no longer exist. Already, the Hebrew Roots Movement picks and chooses which of the 613 to follow. As Christians, we know that Christ is our one-time sacrifice. But, even if someone could successfully follow every other law all the time, that person might still not be right with God if his/her heart isn’t right. For example, Matthew 5:27-28. In it, Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery. But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Later, in Matthew 15:8, Jesus says this about the pharisees who were known for their great keeping of the laws. “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.
The Law Has Been Fulfilled
In Matthew 17:20, Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”
From the Strong’s Concordance, destroy is ἀπόλλυμι (ap-ol’-loo-mee): to destroy utterly. Fulfill is “πληρόω (pléroó): to make full, to complete.” The Law is God’s order, His requirement, for righteousness. Jesus didn’t come so that there were no more requirements for righteousness. He came to BE that righteousness.
“But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.”Galatians 3:23-25
In fact, this is why the laws were called the tutor. A tutor gives you a little extra help understanding a concept. As Christians, when we look at the list of 613 rules, we realize just how impossible it would be to continually try to follow every single one without mistakes. We realize how badly we need a savior. Romans 10:4 says “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” Jesus fulfilled the Law for us. He is our righteousness when we trust in His sacrifice for our atonement.
We Have To Stand Fast
Galatians 5:1-3 says, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law.” Trying to follow the Torah in part just makes you accountable for following the whole thing in order to be righteous.
This brings us back to 2 Corinthians 6:3. The letter kills because its just a list of rules. Life comes when we have the Holy Spirit abiding in us. He quickens us to the things we should do and avoid, but He does so much more. He gives us a new nature, new desires, and a new heart to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said much the same thing in John 6:63 when He said, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” The flesh cares about flesh. The Spirit cares about spirit. It’s one or the other: death or life.
Don’t Lose Track of Priorities
“For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.”Romans 2:28-29
Either your priority is following the letter of the law in the sight of men, or it is about submission to God in your heart and worshiping Jesus with your life. One or the other has to take precedence. One or the other will fill your mind and give purpose to your heart. For those who are involved in the Hebrew Roots Movement, following the laws can start to take over their lives. They isolate themselves in little groups, discussing prohibitions on the sabbath. They talk about the best places to buy kosher meats or head coverings or their preparations for the latest feast days. If they are doing a good job following the laws, they might get prideful, looking down their noses at others who are struggling or who don’t believe in it at all. If they, themselves, are struggling, they might get discouraged and decide it’s too hard, seeking solace at the other extreme of legalism: antinomianism or greasy grace.
At the end of the day, priorities determine the actions of big chain grocery stores in America. They also determine the focus of our minds and hearts. My friends have found a hobby in rescuing valuable merchandise from stores that care more about laws and convenience than they do about waste in a world of want. My friends use some, donate some, and give some away to friends and family members here and abroad. But for those who focus their lives on following Old Covenant laws, the trade-off is much more serious. They fill their minds and hearts with the outward appearance of righteousness instead of the person of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And that is the biggest waste of all.
Other Resources You May Like
Note: My friend’s wife is from the Philippines. The channel is bilingual and focuses a lot on the ridiculousness of the waste in America. You can view that channel here.
If you like articles about modern day movements, try The Mandela Effect and the Character of God. In it, we see how the movement is incompatible with the God of the Bible. Like to read more from Evangelical Christian sisters who “tell it messy, true, and wonderful because we are His”? Check out Telling Hearts.