Permitted? Prohibited?

Why do they do what is not allowed? Who decides what is allowed and what is forbidden?

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"You're not allowed to say anything anymore!" Have you ever heard that sentence before? Sounds exaggerated, doesn't it?

There was a survey by the Allensbach Institute in 2019 that found that two-thirds of respondents think "you have to be very careful about what topics you speak out on." There are also more recent surveys, not quite as systematic, that come to similar conclusions.

Still others say that this is not true, but that you can still speak your mind today, only that you have to expect more opposition. And those who complain are mainly those who can't stand contradiction.

But if two thirds of the population have this feeling, then it cannot be true.

That is also sometimes difficult. Let's take the word "Gypsy" as an example. The Federal Association of Sinti and Roma, a large association with many members, considers it discriminatory, the Sinti Alliance Germany accepts the term "Gypsy", this association even published in 2020: "there should not and must not be any censorship or ostracism of the term Gypsy by anyone". And apparently there are also "Gypsies" who are neither Sinti nor Roma. What do you call them?

This is just one example of how difficult it sometimes is to find the right words. But you also notice that such a discussion can also be kind of fruitless and I only listed it as an example. Personally, I don't feel that I have to be careful about expressing my opinion on this topic, because I don't have an opinion on it at all.

It would certainly be interesting to know whether you also feel that you are no longer allowed to say anything. Some statements are really forbidden by law, for example those that glorify National Socialism. I have no problem with that.

But for many it feels like much more is forbidden. Let's take a look at something forbidden.

In the cornfield

I read Mark 2:23-28; NL:

23 As Jesus was walking through the cornfields one Sabbath, his disciples began to tear off ears of wheat. 24 Then the Pharisees said to Jesus, "They must not do that! It is against the law to work and harvest grain on the Sabbath." 25 But Jesus replied, "Have you never read in the Scriptures what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 26 He went into the house of God (at the time when Abiathar was high priest), ate the special bread reserved only for priests, and gave it to his companions as well. This too was a violation of the Law." 27 And he continued, "The Sabbath was made for man's good, and not man for the Sabbath. 28 And therefore the Son of Man is also Lord over the Sabbath!"

Apparently the disciples transgress a law, a prohibition, and Jesus defends them.

This is not how many people imagine Christianity to be.

But you are supposed to rest on the seventh day, aren't you? Isn't Jesus doing something wrong here?

Let's take a closer look at the text.

First of all, you can notice that you are hungry even on the Sabbath.

And they get themselves something to eat. Basically, it was allowed at that time to go through someone else's field and pick something for oneself (Deut. 23:26). Harvesting with a basket was not allowed.

But now comes this Sabbath commandment. What about it? The 10 Commandments say (Ex 20:8, NL):

Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.

Another translation, the NEÜ, translates as follows:

Remember the Sabbath day and leave it to God!

Sabbath literally means "day of rest" or "rest". In Exodus 20:9-11 it is emphasised again that one should not do any work on this day of rest.

Are you not allowed to pick ears of corn on the Sabbath? Is that work? I cannot see that from this.

One day of rest a week makes sense in any case. We Christians usually take Sunday because that is Resurrection Day, some pastors take Monday, but the main thing is to have a day of rest.

So here we have a ban that many people followed at the time.

Nevertheless, Jesus contradicts here. He makes two points.

It can make sense to break prohibitions out of necessity. He gives the example of how David and his people, fleeing from Saul, desperately needed provisions and were given these special loaves by the priest.

There are these cases. When my wife was about to give birth with my older daughter, she drove my mother-in-law to the hospital and paid rather less attention to traffic rules. One can understand that.

The second point Jesus makes here is that a commandment or prohibition is for man's benefit and not an end in itself.

The Sabbath was made for man's good and not man for the Sabbath.

Every commandment or prohibition must have a meaning, otherwise it is useless.

And in this case, the Sabbath was made for the good of every human being. Allow yourself your weekly day of rest and give all the stress to God. You can deal with the stress and the burden again the next day. But on the day of rest you leave all that behind.


What else is prohibited?

Many legal prohibitions serve to organise life together in some way. You can find some of these in the 10 Commandments in the Bible, such as "thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, etc." and it is obvious that such prohibitions are also needed.

With other bans, some people's souls begin to boil:

Ban on gas heating, poof, ban on the combustion car, poof!

Banning microplastics in various products, I think most people agree on that.

Of course, bans are probably most likely to be accepted if the justification for them is plausible.

What about the prohibition in our text? The Pharisees say:

It is against the law to work and harvest crops on the Sabbath.

The Pharisees created a zoo of other commandments around the biblical commandments and prohibitions in order to avoid at all costs even coming close to a transgression.

And that is a very wrong approach and restricts people disproportionately.

If the commandments and the prohibitions are really made for human beings, then the first step is to understand the meaning of the prohibition, where sensible limits are and where they are for my and my neighbour's protection.

The basic way of thinking "I must not transgress the commandment, then I am a sinner" is obviously not correct, as can be seen here.

You have to see the benefit of a ban for yourself, e.g. if I don't lie, I have to remember less and people trust me more, so I get better social contacts in the long run. Nevertheless, I could also imagine lying in an emergency if it would avert a real danger to my family. I don't want to, I don't like lying, but you can't predict such situations.

There is also an example in the New Testament where the disciples do not comply with the order of the Jewish authorities (Acts 4:18-20; NL):

18 So they called the apostles back in and forbade them ever again to speak or teach in Jesus' name. 19 But Peter and John replied, "What do you mean, does God want us to obey you more than him? 20 We cannot stop telling about what we have seen and heard."

This violation of the law can be well understood, but in the vast majority of cases it is right to act within the framework of the laws of our authorities.

However, the commandments and prohibitions in the 10 Commandments are good for us in any case. And there are not many. All the Old Testament dietary and other rules only serve as an image for us to learn from in the New Testament world. There are also various instructions or recommendations in the epistles, but I would see these less as commandments/prohibitions than as sensible tips for living together in the community.

Actually there are only two commandments for Christians (Matthew 22:37-40; NL):

37 Jesus answered: "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' 38 This is the first and most important commandment. 39 Another is equally important: 'Love your neighbour as yourself.' 40 All the other commandments and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments."

It also follows that a commandment or prohibition is never an end in itself, but contributes to these two commandments, mostly to the second commandment, because prohibitions and commandments often have something to do with people living together.

The Lord of the Sabbath

I got stuck again at the end of our introductory text (v.28).

28 And therefore the Son of Man is also Lord over the Sabbath!"

I have read some comments on this that are limited to stating that Jesus Christ is also Lord over the Sabbath.

I agree, but I am a little confused by the "and therefore". Other translations write "Therefore" or "Thus" and that says that Jesus is Lord over the Sabbath because the Sabbath was made for the good of man and not man was made for the Sabbath.

The disciples did not actually transgress the Sabbath commandment, but only the exaggerated interpretation of the Pharisees.

The "and therefore" could mean that just as the Sabbath is for men, Jesus Christ also came for men and is therefore Lord over the Sabbath.

Actually, Jesus Christ is Lord over all commandments and prohibitions.

We probably don't need to concern ourselves with commandments and prohibitions if we take the two commandments to love God and our neighbour seriously and are on the way with Jesus Christ.

And the perceived bans?

And what about the unspoken, felt prohibitions that we looked at at the beginning? I think that Jesus Christ is the Lord of these as well.

I think you have to find the balance here between exaggerated and loving language. For example, I would no longer call a dark-skinned person "negro". It's a word that has been used in a discriminatory way for so long that it's simply no longer acceptable, and I think it's a good social consensus. Personally, I haven't heard the word used to describe a person in my environment for a long time.

Charity, and that includes respect, is of course an important criterion here. I don't want to hurt people with my words.

On the other hand, you have to look at who wants to lay down language rules for whom. Regarding gendering, I found a survey by WDR, February 2023, that for two thirds gendering is not important and more than two thirds reject gender forms in writing and language.

Whatever one thinks about it, let us be loving and talk to each other. That should always be our commandment.


I summarise: