Legalism is Just Haggling Over Price


At a dinner party Winston Churchill says to his dinner companion, “Madam, would you sleep with me for five million pounds?”

The woman responds, “My goodness, Mr. Churchill. I suppose I would.”

Churchill replies, “Would you sleep with me for five pounds?”

She answers, “Mr. Churchill, what kind of woman do you think I am?”

Churchill answers, “Madam, we’ve already established that. Now we are haggling about the price.”

Okay, let’s tell a similar story but with a completely different setting: church.

Imagine this conversation with a visitor at your church…

“Do you welcome people here who are remarried?” “Of course.” “Minorities?” “Sure.” “How about interracial couples?” “Why… yes.” “People who sometimes struggle with drinking?” “Of course – we’re not perfect here.”  “How about people who are overweight, or who don’t wear head coverings, or who do wear mixed fabrics?” “Don’t be silly, of course we do.”  “That’s so good to hear, because I’d like to bring my son — he’s gay.”



Variations on this talk occur in countless churches, homes, family gatherings, communities, and political parties, regularly, all over the map. Sometimes only silently conveyed.

If you are deciding which people can come in, which people can serve, which people can marry, then you’re legalistic. Because legalism means adherence to the law for moral approval. It’s approval earned rather than given, a result of works instead of grace, a payment instead of a gift. says:


a. the doctrine that salvation is gained through good works.

b. the judging of conduct in terms of adherence to precise laws.

But the Bible says, salvation comes not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.

In other words, the way God saves us, protects us, draws us into needed provision, on an ongoing basis, is a gift. And you don’t earn a gift. If you earn it, it’s called payment. Even if you pay only a dollar, it’s still payment.

If you are deciding who can be part of church, or will be warmly welcomed in church, and not looked with subtle superiority — then you’re a legalist.

If you’re legalistic on the gay issue, you’re a legalist.

If you are behavior-focused, then you are a legalist.

Jesus talks about faith as the basis to make us well, to make us rightly related, to bring us peace.

Jesus tells us to be love-focused, not behavior-focused.

If you’re not love-based — but love-plus based — you’re a legalist.

Jesus had SO MUCH MORE in mind than us policing each other.

Jesus was talking about love. Absolute unconditional love. Jesus was talking about life.

That’s all.

6 thoughts on “Legalism is Just Haggling Over Price

  1. A holy God requires perfection. If you cannot be perfect you better find someone who can be perfect … Enter Jesus Christ. Accept the sacrifice and grace of Jesus … His life, his love, his death, his resurrection OR accept the law. You cannot accept BOTH. One cancels out the other. It is your choice … BUT it is hypocrisy to try to blend two … The Bible is clear you cannot serve 2 masters … You must pick one …

  2. Very well put. I have been having this discussion with several people regarding divorce and following the letter of the law. Why do most Churches allow “adultiers” (people who got divorced for reasons other than sexual misconduct and remarry someone else) to attend Church, fellowship and serve. What does the Bible say about adultiers? Matthew 19:9 “And I say to you: WHOEVER divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, COMMITS ADULTRY”

    I don’t see adultry as a one time act in the above senerio but truly a “state” you are commiting adultry every time you have sex with someone other than your first spouse. You can’t just confess and say you made a mistake get married to someone else and keep on having sex with the new person. That doesn’t stop you from being and adultier. You are still commiting adultry. Jesus himself says so. Please tell me where I am wrong if you disagree.

    We aren’t asking those people to stop having sex with thier new spouse or get a divorce and stay seperated and/or go back to your original spouse. Think of what would need to happen in the Church to follow the letter of the law. That is why the Church has quietly let the “adultiers” exist in the Church because it can’t fix the problem. We can’t follow the law perfectly that’s the whole point, that’s why we need Jesus.

    And yet what does the Church in general ask homosexuals to do? Don’t follow your desire, stay celibate, change.

    The beauty of this is it doesn’t matter whether you believe homosexuality is a sin or not, the Church has been allowing adultiers a free pass for a long time especially the main Protestant,Evangelical churches. It is so easy to see and yet so many people put on thier blinders. The hypocrisy is so thick you can’t take a breath without choking on it.

    This battle will be won because truth will prevail. The Church is at the doorstep of something wonderful. She may go kicking and screaming and all may not come but God’s truth will not be denied.

    God is still at work unveiling his plan and purpose for the Church. His plan didn’t stop in 200 AD or 1530 AD or 2002 AD, it is still happening, I don’t think he is done teaching us what “pure love” is. If he was done he would be back already.

    Love God, love others. Until we get these two commandments down, I ain’t worrying about the rest!

    Jesus saved me, he took care of my problem, he had mercy on my soul.

    Thank you Jesus, really thank you, I am getting goose bumps as I type this. Thank you Jesus!

    • Beautiful, Mike. Thank you so much. That is exactly right! Jesus KNEW we aren’t equipped to “stop sin” (especially other people’s) — Jesus din’t even stop sin! He gave life! Our job is to let his life flow through us as we love God and love others. Eloquently put, my friend. Than you, Jesus!

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