The power of ‘thou shalt not’
I have noticed that God’s law is good at telling us what not to do but not very good at telling us what to do. We know stealing is wrong but it is not always clear who to help when faced by two people in need and just one resource.
It is also interesting that when it comes to that sacred secular right called “freedom of speech” we don’t mind when the government tells us what “not” to say, but we draw the line at the state dictating what we ought to say. This may not be a coincidence.
The law is good at revealing the things we do wrong than in showing us what we ought to do right. As Apostle Paul once noted, “knowledge of sin comes through the law.” But what about righteousness? Shouldn’t God’s law be the key to being righteous before God and man?
That’s where the gospel of Jesus Christ comes in. It makes all the difference. God’s righteousness (the essence of our “what to do”) is revealed in who Jesus is, what Jesus has done, and our faith in Jesus (Rom 3:20–26).
So when we make the choice by faith, the righteousness of our act is determined by the fact that we made the choice in faith (Rom 14:23), and not out of our prowess in analytics, or our mastery of social theories. This gospel difference is what makes one person’s obedience to the law displeasing to God (legalism) while another person doing the very same thing is said to please God.
Of course it is good to study and understand how society works and how to come up with the best social policies for helping the “least of these”, as long as we remember that the measure of our faithfulness before God will never be determined by these scales, but by FAITH.