[CF Devotionals] 2013-02-20 - The Problems with Work-Based Theology

The Epistles of John ~ Part 97 ~ 1 John 5

The reason we are overcomers is because of our faith. This faith is grounded in the incarnation and all that implies: His death, burial and resurrection in payment for our sins. We are overcomers, because we are saved. And because we are overcomers, we do not have to feel burdened by obedience to God. We obey because we love. But for others, their understanding of commandments is a burden. For example, for the Jews obedience had become a burden.

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are" (Matthew 23:15).

The problem was that they had fallen into a work-based theology. They didn't serve God out of love. They served out of fear of the consequences of breaking the Law. And, because of how the Law was handled, it was a burden. This has always been true and continues to be true still. Consider this example from the work Shabbos.

"The status of a vessel or tool is dependent upon the one to which it is put. Identical leather pouches can be used to carry gold coins or children's marbles. If the former, the pouch is a wallet; if the latter, it is a toy. The laws of the Sabbath employ this concept. One of the forbidden labors is carrying from domain to domain. Such carrying constitutes a punishable offense, however, only if an item of significance is moved. The Talmud gives examples of such measurements: if the amount transported is too small to be considered of reasonable value, the carrier is not considered to have violated the Scriptural prohibition.

In the case of a vessel, if it is used as a container, its status in terms of the Sabbath laws depends on the contents. For example, if one transports an empty silver cup from his apartment to the street, he is in violation because the object of his interest is the cup itself. If, however, there is wine in the cup, then his motive is to move the wine from one place to another; its utility in that particular act is purely as a vessel by means of which the wine can be carried, even if the cup is worth more than its contents.

But the cup itself was still transported! Why should the presence of an insignificant ounce or two of wine nullify the considerable value of the silver cup? The answer is that Sabbath labor is Scripturally forbidden only if it is … a labor done with intention and forethought. As long as the intended accomplishment involved the contents, the container is considered only an accessory. The reality is defined by the motive." 1

  1. Finkelman, Rabbi Shimon, Shabbos The Sabbath—Its Essence and Significance, Mesorah Publications, Ltd, Brooklyn, NY, 1991., p. 20-21.

To be continued.

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