Jim took a job as an assembler in a furniture factory. His job was to put together a set of drawers that would be sold in the factory outlet center. The factory gave him a work area and all of the parts he needed to put together the set of drawers. Included was a set of instructions on how they wanted the drawers put together. Jim assembled the first set of drawers. It failed QA for many reasons. He tried again and again but the work of his hands was rejected. Over and over his work failed inspection.
Jim’s manager recommended to the owner of the company to let Jim go. He just couldn’t understand the instructions he was given and therefore could not do the job he was hired to do. The owner was a master carpenter who started the business from nothing. He decided that instead of letting Jim go he himself would spend a couple days working with Jim.
The next three days the owner spent with Jim showing him how to build the dresser. He walked him through each step showing him how the step was to be completed. At the end of the three days Jim not only knew how to build the dresser but he no longer needed the instructions. His work was of the highest quality. Jim moved through the ranks of the factory until he himself became a master carpenter.
We translate the word Torah to The Law. In our modern thinking we view law as a set of rules that we are to follow to the letter. The Pharisees viewed the Law in much the same way. They made it possible to be Jewish without the Temple by strict observance of the precepts of Torah. But if we look closer at the original words used a better understanding of Torah would be Instruction. Halakha (Jewish) Law literally means “the way in which to walk” or how to live a righteous life. Torah was given to man as an instruction on how to have a right relationship with God and with each other.
Like Jim, the Jewish people had problems understanding exactly what the instruction was telling them to do. Christians believe that Jesus is the Torah incarnate, the Law living among us. Jesus did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it. Jesus came to show us how to live out the Law the way that it was meant to be followed.
The thing that is missing in the legalistic way the Jewish people apply the law is agape, sacrificial love. St. Paul tells us that even if we have faith to move mountains if we do not have love we have nothing. Sacrificial love is the key to understanding the Law. We were given the Law by Love and through Love so we could love God and one another perfectly. The Ten Commandments are not simply a list of “thou shall nots”. The Ten Commandments defines the marriage covenant between God to his people and to his people with each other. The Ten Commandments tell us how to love one another.
Take for example the commandment, “Thou shall not kill.” The legalistic interpretation of this would be not to take another person’s life from them. When this command is lived to its fullest it takes on a much deeper meaning. When you are living this command through love it is not enough just to not harm someone. The fulfillment of this command is to love and care for everyone you have contact with. We are called to serve each other’s needs to the best of our ability. We are called to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the widow and orphan. We are to do so without concern for a person’s age, color, sex, or their location on a map. We are called to care without regard to the cost. We are called to love our best friend and our greatest enemy equally. This is what it means not to kill.
When we look at the Law through legalistic eyes we are often asking ourselves what the minimum we can do and still be within the Law. When we live the Law fulfilled as Jesus taught us to do we will always ask, “What more can I do?” No matter how much we give there is always more we can do. The work of Jesus, of sacrificial love, will never be complete on this side of heaven.With every commandment given to us by God, whether that is the Ten Commandments or the two simplified commandments give to us by Jesus, ask yourself, “What more can I give?” Then let God direct your heart.