Why Legalism is Poisonous

Have you ever wondered why Jesus called the Pharisees and Sadducees Vipers? I never put two and two together until I started learning about how snake venom works, and specifically, Vipers. Ultimately, viper venom stops the heart by coagulating the blood. Life is in the blood. Stop blood flow, and you put an end to life. Coagulated blood cannot be pumped by the heart which results in death.

If he [Satan] can stop your heart, he can destroy faith in those affected by legalism. Far worse, is that poison takes time to kill, and the victim, at first, may not realize they are dying. The slow process is painful, destructive and excruciating to observe. Yet, God created an antidote, His Word!

O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” – Matthew 12:34, KJV

Putting legalism into perspective has been an important part about DivideTheWord.blog. Our mission has been to respond to the poisonous threat and spread the antidote, the Gospel of Christ (love) the way it was meant to be spread.

In Matthew 12, Jesus had just gone through an episode where the Pharisees trailed him and his disciples, attempting to catch them breaking the law. That Judaic law that is. Earlier in Chapter 12, the disciples were hungry, and as they walked through a field of corn, they started plucking corn right off the shuck and eating it. (You have to be really hungry to do that!)

A road leads deep into a  Kansas cornfield in late July.

It was at this time, on Saturday, a Sabbath, the venomous vipers thought to catch Jesus breaking the law and prove him a false teacher, yet He told them just what he thought of Legalism;

…I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.” – Matthew 12:7, KJV

You see, Legalism runs around condemning, judging those who don’t live up to Legalisms‘ standards, and rules, and regulations, and dress codes, etc. It kills, it’s the letter of law that destroys the soul’s connection with God, and Legalism can be self-imposing. Ask anyone with a self-harm addiction, like anorexia.

The poison of anorexia and eating disorders is often a self-imposed venom that will eat someone from the inside out, or it can be caused by outside forces, such as social media and Hollywood, imposing what they call ‘perfect’ on imperfect humans.

“Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. – 2 Corinthians 3:6, KJV


The Venom of Legalism

Look, here is what legalism does – it causes us to believe that there are forces outside the power of Christ that dictate our salvation, our worth to God, our value in His kingdom, and furthermore, it makes us live in constant fear of losing favor with Him.

Did I say anything wrong today? Did my shirt slip up and someone saw my belly? I rolled my shirt sleeves up, were they too high? My top button on my shirt wasn’t buttoned, I hope no one thought I was being lascivious. Did my pastor see my at the pool today? Hope no one saw me at the movie theater…

Look – let me give you an example of the legalistic church I was a part of for 15 years, and how legalism works;

  • If you claimed to be a Christian, but you wore shorts, and short sleeve shirts, you weren’t going to heaven for sure, and people called you a sincerely wrong or misguided Christian.
  • If you claimed to be a Christian but went to the movies, you’ll be lost for sure if the rapture were to take place, even if you were watching Finding Dory.
  • If you claimed to be a Christian but didn’t go to our church, the devil was your master and we told our children so.
  • If you have any facial hair, you are haughty and pride and both of those come before a fall!
  • If you claimed to be a Christian but you didn’t get Pastor’s permission on who you date, marry, where you live or go on vacation, you’re in rebellion, and rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft.
  • If you claim to be a Christian but don’t give 10%, (15% in my case) of your income, you are robbing God and curses will crush you and your family.
  • Without Holiness, you cannot see God, and we define holiness as …

Viper venom (Hemotoxic venom) does something indescribably amazing, and scary, all at the same time. It turns a life giving blood of white and red cells into a jello like substance, in seconds. When hemotoxic venom is introduced into the blood stream, the blood rapidly coagulates, which in effect, causes consistent cardiac arrest. The heart cannot pump solid objects through it, only liquid.

Blood seconds after being mixed with hemotoxic snake venom

This stops the flow of blood, and hence, life. This is legalism in effect – life has stopped flowing between God and Saint. God has been replaced by a church standard, rules, the pastor (read our article on Replacing Jesus with your Pastor) or other idols that can never satisfy as God does.

The Toxin Antidote

Viper venom, interestingly enough, can only be combatted by antivenom, which is created by the venom itself. Wait… Can Legalism be defeated by legalism?

Actually, legalism has an interesting character to it, and that is that it is simply a misinterpretation of truth. Want to defeat legalistic venom? Use the antibody of Truth! You see, God does want us to avoid certain behaviors, and live certain ways. God is interested in us being morally pure, and clean.

Using God’s Word will defeat legalism by knowing you can have a direct and very real connection with God that enables you, through the Spirit, to live above sin without a 500-page binder provided by your church dictating all the do’s and don’t’s. God wants us to live for him willingly, not by compulsion.

But know this, if the human rule being imposed on you, and it cannot be found in Scripture, Jesus Christ cast it out in the face of the vipers of His day!

Their worship of me is worthless, because they teach human rules as doctrines. – Mark 7:7, ISV

Live for Him and no one else! God Bless you in the freedom only Christ can give. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed! John 8:36


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