Using High Standards to Set the Bar: How Do We Compare to Them, America?

Recently, Louisiana made the news by requiring that the Ten Commandments be displayed in every classroom in their schools. It is a standard that will undoubtedly be challenged in a court of law (somewhat ironic since it concerns the law, and someone will be trying to use the law to challenge a display and reminder about the law…)

The Old Testament had a lot to say about the Law. There were standards handed down to men which provided moral guidance and direction. The Ten Commandments may seem like common sense, but if you consider the times when they were written, they actually flew in the face of not just common practice, but also human nature itself. The whole idea of having a relationship with God calls mankind to higher standards, to greater love, based on God’s perfect character. If you read through the commandments, they are far more what we aspire to be than they are common sense. They encourage us to treat one another better, to BE better…

When I attended my granddaughter’s track meet last Spring, I watched her compete in the triple jump. Just behind her event, the pole vaulters were also jumping, and I watched the meet officials “set the bar”. Each time they moved it a bit higher, creating standards that were a bit more difficult to meet.

It got me to thinking, God has High Standards. Do you ever stop and think about how HIS STANDARDS might apply to everyday life here in the good old USA? We probably have laws that say some of the same stuff, but the Bible certainly doesn’t lower the bar when it comes to how we should live:

“Do not steal. Don’t lie. Do not deceive one another.
Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God. I am the Lord.
Don’t defraud or rob your neighbor…
Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but fear your God. I am the Lord.
Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly…” (Leviticus 19:11-15, NIV)

A Familiar List

Leviticus 19 lists various laws that deal with how we treat one another. This list offers a pretty good plumb-line to set against a culture, and how much that culture reflects the design and character of God.

A godly society would tell the truth, would respect its Creator, would be unselfish and honest with neighbors, and would not oppress those who have special needs. Its justice system would be unbiased, treating all participants fairly and equally. I bet if you took a poll, the vast majority of folks here in America would agree that those standards represent how we should live. So, take a look around.

Just a Quick Evaluation

Here in America, how are we doing on this scorecard? Stealing? Lots of it. Lying and deception? Wow, probably more than at ANY period in our history. Profanity and swearing? Oops. (It’s become common on TV, and has even snuck into widely-seen advertising…) Theft? Double Check. Taking care of less fortunate? Been downtown in any major city lately? Seen any homeless folks? Fair and unbiased justice? Not so much.

So, what do you think our grade is? How is it that our country fails to live up to these standards even though almost everybody would agree that they are the way we should live?

I don’t care whether you are talking about Red America or Blue America, our standards on these issues is apparently pretty low. I’m not sure how YOU look at it, but at a quick glance I’d say we aren’t doing too well with these laws. Maybe TEN commandments was too many. We’d probably do better with five or six. if we were only getting graded on how well we KEPT them… (Reminds me of the Seinfeld car rental episode: we know how to TAKE the commandments, we just don’t know how to KEEP the commandments!) Kinda sad, isn’t it? Freedom is great because it gives us opportunity, but freedom is really scary because it gives us opportunity.

Even the most casual observer would look at us and say, “Wow, the American culture is  not doing very well when held up to God’s standards…” Each of us can compare that list from Leviticus to our society and find room for improvement. But don’t miss the trees for the forest. Focus a bit more, and read that list again. Hold those standards up not to America, but just to YOURSELF. Look at the standards; look in the mirror. Then be honest! (Well the list says to be, right off the top, doesn’t it?). Stop and compare God’s standards not to culture in general, but to yourself. As Joey Tribbiani would say, “How YOU doin’?”

Standards We Should Consider

The law says “Do not steal or practice false dissemination;
It says to treat our fellow man with due consideration.
It tells us not to lie or steal, it says that God is strong and real,
That justice isn’t what we feel, but a Holy God’s creation.
The Bible sets the standards that a Holy God expects;
His character is what the Bible and the law reflects.
Everything that’s written there is true and just and right and fair,
Suggesting that we all should care for those whom it protects.
The law is good for everyone, but just to make it clearer:
It works the best when you decide to read it to the mirror.

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