By Tye Beavers
High standards are generally seen as a good thing to be sought after, and observed. While I agree, I would like to write about one of the dangers that I feel accompanies the setting of high standards. I believe that we often see a need for improvement in our lives, and set a raised standard for ourselves. This could be in an area of our lives such as music, homeschooling, courtship, or even something small, like how much we’ll dress up for church.
When we set a high standard that we want to live by, it could be something like not wanting to listen to music with a beat, or a decision to wear a tie to church. If we live by these self-imposed standards, we may feel as though we accomplished something. The next step is to look around at others to see “how we’re doing”. When Sunday rolls around, I may look around to check and see if other people are wearing ties. If I see people there in jeans and t-shirts, and I am wearing a tie, I may feel I’m better than them. This is a manifestation of my pride.
I would like to make something clear. My complaint is not against the high standard. High standards are often our attempt to live out something we hear or read, often from God’s Word. However, the standard we choose is often not a case of a clear Biblical command, such as the command not to steal, but one with a more discretionary line, such as modesty or a music choice.
You can picture the sin like a cliff. To be safe, we build ourselves a marker to show how far back we should stay from the cliff. We may even stick to that marker, and by doing so, avoid the sin. Too often, we will see another Christian set their marker closer to the sin, and decide they must be less spiritual than us. We have just fallen off a different cliff behind us that we didn’t even realize was there. We have allowed ourselves to become prideful by deciding that we’re better than another, and we’ve tumbled off that cliff, and into the sin of pride.
As humans, I don’t think it’s easy to accept that different people have different standards. When we set a good standard, it’s easy to feel that everyone else should live by it too. Paul writes in Romans 14:5-6 (NIV):
5 One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. 6 Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.
I submit to you that in our attempt to completely avoid a certain sin, we have often committed one of the 7 sins that Proverbs calls “detestable to Him”. Proverbs 6:16-19 lists the 7 sins that God hates. The very first one on the list, haughty eyes, is exactly what I’m speaking about here. In this list of things God hates, we don’t find dating, music with a beat, or public schooling. Many things that we draw lines around and so carefully avoid, are not sin, but can be a door or a path to sin. In our attempt to stay far from them, we have fallen victim to pride.
People today are very hard on the Pharisees, and rightfully so. They had the Savior walking among them, and instead of obeying Him, had Him crucified. They were the spiritual leaders of the day, and as such, they knew and understood the law of Moses. One of the laws of Moses was to do no work on the Sabbath, and I believe they tried to live by it. In Mark 2, Jesus and his disciples were walking through a grain field, and the disciples picked and ate some of the grain. The Pharisees pointed this out, and asked why the disciples broke the law by working on the Sabbath. Jesus responded by pointing out that David ate the priest’s bread when he was hungry. He wasn’t attempting to make an excuse, but to get them to realize their mistake. Their error wasn’t in trying to live by Moses’ law, but in thinking themselves higher than others for where they set their standard of doing so. I don’t believe the disciples were sinning by plucking and eating grain, but the Pharisees decided that constituted work, and therefore in their opinion, the disciples were sinning.
Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 10 that people who compare themselves with one another are not wise. It is so easy to decide we’re not so bad because we can find someone worse than us, but this is the very thing God hates so much.
In closing, I would like to make it clear that I am for high standards. I completely understand drawing a line far from the sin, and deciding not to cross that line. At the same time, we must be careful that we do not judge another Christian who sets their line farther out than we do. If they are not in sin, it is none of our business, and if they are, there is a very clear treatment prescribed in Matthew 18:15-17. If they are in sin, and we do not intend to help them as using God’s instructions, we are better off not even knowing about their sin. In neither case, whether they’re sinning or not, should our response be to decide we’re better than them because we didn’t do something they did.