The only thing more irritating than listening to a bunch of kids bicker is listening to a bunch of adults argue. How people can stand to listen to or watch those talk shows where each person tries to scream louder than the others is beyond me. If there is any intelligence involved, it’s lost in all the noise. Like my Uncle Floyd used to say, “Them folks ain’t got enough intellectuals to know how stupid they sound.”
Last week, I was listening to a few men debate whether churches should teach against using tobacco or drinking alcohol as a biblical standard or a man-made standard. From what I gathered, if the Bible prohibited something, then you could teach it as a biblical standard. But if the Bible did not specifically address a thing and you wanted to teach against it, you had to acknowledge that it was a man-made standard that God wasn’t necessarily obligated to acknowledge. I also discerned that by standard these fellows meant a rule that church members were expected to obey if they wanted to get to Heaven.
So, if the Bible says a specific thing, like stealing, is wrong, than you can teach against it – specifically and by name. But where the Bible says things like “denying ungodliness and worldly lusts,” you aren’t allowed to make a list of things that those words might describe or you will be guilty of teaching man-made standards.
So, wanting to be sure I set my standards where the Bible says to, I grabbed my newest KJV (in black leather) and went to work.
I discovered a couple of things right off.
First, when it comes to human behavior, the Bible doesn’t set standards. Take it right from the top – the Garden of Eden in the book of Genesis. God said, “Don’t eat of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.” No standard. Just a command. Obey it or die.
Smell of it? Lick the outside of it? Pick it from the tree? Play catch with it? Just how close to the fruit from that tree could Adam get and not be in trouble? All God said was not to eat it.
When Eve came along, Adam issued the first man-made standard. “Don’t touch it!” he told her. But God never said that. He just said they couldn’t eat it. How close they could get to eating it without actually eating it God apparently left up to them to figure out.
The more I read, the more I noted that God wasn’t big on what we call standards. He just gave commands. Thou shalt not have any other gods before me. Thou shalt not bear false witness. You get the picture.
The second thing I figured out real quickly was that if I embraced God’s commands as my standards, I’d be in big trouble at home. The Bible says not to commit adultery, but it says nothing about hanging out in the backyard while your twentysomething neighbor mows her lawn in her bikini. Yeah, I know that Jesus said that if we lusted after women we commit adultery in our hearts, but just watching doesn’t mean you are lusting. I mean, you don’t know my heart, right?
So, lunch with a woman I’m working on a project with is no problem. Joining a workout team at the gym that includes a couple of well-toned females – I didn’t see a Thou Shalt Not attached to that.
The Bible may say all I have to do is avoid adultery, but a certain lady who lives in my house has a different set of expectations. Setting the Bible’s commands as my standards is a sure way to ruin a good marriage.
The Bible says you can’t kill anybody, but what if you just beat them up real good and then let them go? I don’t remember my Sunday School teacher saying that was in the Big Ten.
Jesus did say that if somebody demanded your coat to give them your shirt also, but he said nothing about your Yankees cap, your sweats, or your ripped jeans. Let’s keep it real.
No, you won’t find many standards in the Bible. You just find a whole bunch of commandments.
Those fellows I heard debating all this? They thought they were really with it, right out there on the cutting edge of modern thinking. Truth is, the Israelites argued these same points the whole forty years it took them to get from Egypt to the Promise Land.
God told them they would die if they touched the mountain. Remember that? But He never told them where the boundaries were. He left that up to Moses. That man-made standard removed lots of confusion and saved lots of lives.
It seems cool and compassionate to say clever things like “We let the Bible set our standards,” but the reality is the Bible doesn’t deal much with standards like we use the term. It lists the do’s and don’ts, but doesn’t tell you how close you can get to either before you’re snared. Anybody with a smidgen of experience with human nature realizes the danger of not putting some distance between us and the line that God says not to cross.
The Bible is full of principles, commands, and expectations. From those, God expects us to make choices and decisions that reflect His values in our lives. He expects us to establish some standards so that our lives become a human reflection of His word.
What did Jesus say about taking up our cross each day and following Him?
Hey, wait. Maybe the Bible does set a standard after all.