Columnists > Soul Food

He must be kidding

Can God really mean what he says?

Issue: "Putting Kyoto on ice," Aug. 8, 1998

Recently I posted an edict in our kitchen. "All glasses, bowls, plates, forks, spoons, and other utensils are banned from all rooms of the house except the kitchen and patio." The edict applies only to offspring, not to parents. Moreover, this is a permanent, not a temporary, decree. My kids were immediately faced with a question, "Does he really mean it? After all Dad is known to fly off the handle sometimes. Could it be that this was an understandable, though extreme, response to finding about 30 glasses, plates, etc., on a Saturday morning sweep through bedrooms?"

Christians also wrestle with the question, "Does he mean it?" when confronted with God's will revealed in Scripture. Let me mention a few contemporary examples:

(1) "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy" (Exodus 20:8). Does God really mean for us to set aside one day in seven, refraining not only from lawful work but from many otherwise innocent recreations, and to devote the day to rest, worship, fellowship, and service? All the stores are open. Professional sports teams, and increasingly colleges and other non-professional teams play their games. Families and friends call us to forget church and join them for special gatherings and observances. There are all sorts of non-sinful ways to fill the day. Does God mean what he said through Moses? Yes.

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(2) "I hate divorce" (Malachi 2:16). Does God really expect husbands and wives to be faithful to their marriage commitment for a lifetime? Does he allow divorce only for adultery and desertion? Many Christians are unhappy in their marriages. The world has changed. Fifty percent of marriages end in divorce. Is God's view of divorce today the same he expressed through the prophet Malachi 400 years before Christ? Yes.

(3) "She is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord" (1 Corinthians 7:39). Does God mean to limit our choice of marriage partners to those who share our faith in Christ as Savior and Lord? Some Christian young people would like to marry another Christian, if an acceptable one could be found, but they find "slim pickings" when they confine their search to those who have a living relationship with Christ. Many Christian young people date and inevitably fall in love with unbelievers. They then have to face a tough choice between their romantic/erotic feelings and their biblical/principled convictions. Does God still require us to marry "only in the Lord" as Paul taught? Yes.

(4) "If you owe taxes, pay taxes" (Romans 13:7). Frankly, many of us would like for the government to do less for us and leave us with more of our money. Businessmen and workers find the government's grasp on their income onerous. There is the large "cash" underground economy. And, besides, vast numbers of people under-report their income and never get caught. Was God serious when he commanded through Paul that Christians should honestly pay their taxes? Yes.

(5) "I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety" (1 Timothy 2:9). Some Christian women seem to have misunderstood such passages as encouraging a bland, unattractive, unfashionable appearance. On the other hand, some Christian women and Christian parents seem to live as though there are no Christian values that should guide choices about clothing and appearance. If fashion says hemlines are high and necklines are low, then you go with fashion. Does God still expect women to choose modesty out of respect for him, their Christian brothers, and themselves, as Paul taught? Yes.

In the Garden of Eden Satan asked a question intended to undermine both faith and obedience: "Did God really say?" The Evil One starts us thinking about that question especially when the pressures of our own desires and the culture's values incline us to look for a loophole to free us from doing what the Bible says. The way of safety and happiness is to approach the Bible with an open mind and heart seeking sincerely to understand what it says. Be careful to discover what the Bible intends to teach or command, not what it may appear to say or what somebody with an agenda has imposed on it. Then when you have read and understood, "trust and obey."

William H. Smith
William H. Smith

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