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Monday, July 22, 2013

How much does the Bible say we should spend on sunglasses?

There seem to be some things that the Bible makes clear -- we should do them, or we shouldn't. Examples: love your enemies; don't commit adultery. But there are all sorts of areas where we have to make decisions on our own. There's no scriptural guidance.

One example: how should we dress? I happen to belong to a denomination (it's not the only one like this) that has a history with some legalism in it. People believed that they should wear certain types of clothing, usually no jewelry, and their hair should be prepared in a certain way, especially when they came to church. We're pretty much over that now, thank God. But why was it so appealing to some, in the past?

I don't know all the answers. One possible answer is that the Bible does say that we should dress modestly. But modesty is mostly a state of mind. It's possible to appear in public without being mostly covered, but with a modest attitude -- that is, without wanting to draw attention to yourself, or how you are dressed, made up, hair fixed, and otherwise ornamented. It's possible to cover yourself up rather thoroughly, but have a desire to show off your body, or your clothes, or your new watch, in a proud manner.

Another reason is that we like to conform. Even people who call themselves nonconformists like to conform.

But there's a third reason. Having a set of standards that can be followed, by anyone, regardless of the state of their relationship to Christ, is tempting. It tempts people to follow those standards, and not engage in the deeper walk that comes to us as the Holy Spirit draws us deeper and deeper into the attitude of conformity to Christ. And it tempts people to even think that there is no such conformity with Christ's attitude, but just a set of external standards. I'm not saying that those who did, or do, dress a certain way, and leave off some ornamentation, as part of their religious culture, cannot be also conformed to the mind of Christ. Some of them were, and some of them are. But it's too easy to think that conformity to a human standard is all that is expected of us, when it isn't.

What does all this have to do with the title of this post? Good question. Here's my answer. God leaves us to make decisions on all sorts of things, without explicit scriptural guidance? Why is that? Well, one reason has to do with the culture of Bible times. If Paul had spelled out what kind of sunglasses to wear, if any, and how much to pay for them, his contemporaries would probably have thought him crazy, and he wouldn't have understood what he was writing about, himself. But there's another, more important reason, spelled out above. If there was a 21st Century rule book on dress, and spending money, and how we can and can't entertain ourselves and eat, and it was comprehensive, we would think that we could redeem ourselves by our adherence to that rule book. But we couldn't. We can only redeem ourselves by accepting Christ's sacrifice for sin, and following Him as our Lord. Uncertainty on what to do in these matters should drive me to keeping a warm and living relationship with God, who can help me make such decisions.

Deciding how to spend money, what to wear, what to eat, and the like, should be informed by our relationship with Christ. We should pray, and try to think what He would do. And we should realize that we may get such matters wrong, or disagree with fellow believers about these things. (And we need to be tolerant of the behavior of other Christians.) Being wrong, or being different, should remind us that we aren't redeemed by following rules. We are redeemed by Christ's sacrifice!

Although I have spoken only of individual decisions on behavior, group decisions also should be made in this way. We should pray, and seek the mind of Christ, and Biblical guidance, if there is any, on important issues as groups of believers. And, when we do, we should recognize that different groups may come to different conclusions about ritual, doctrine, how a church building looks, church government, and many other things, without either one being sinful in their belief and practice.

Thanks for reading!


FancyHorse said...

Yes, I agree. Legalism can be a distration, and even a hindrance to a true relationship with our Savior. Maybe that's why Jesus was strongly against it. Thank you for your post.

atlibertytosay said...

Excellent commentary.

The law is written on our hearts …

Thank you for sharing this.

* Note: Its not a big deal, but I'm having to go through quite a number of security captchas. This is a google problem more than yours, but just thought you'd like some input.

Martin LaBar said...

You are both welcome.

I'm having to go through them, too. Some of them are unreadable, at least to me.