For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.Did
Imagine with me a hypothetical situation. You are driving along some beautiful “ribbon of highway”, enjoying the scenery, when, without warning, the dreaded flashing lights appear in your rear-view mirror. Muttering imprecations under your breath, you pull over, turn off the engine, roll down your window, and await the arrival of the representative of the law.
The policeman strides up to your car and, after asking for your license and registration, asks “Did you know you were going 70 in a 55 mile-an-hour zone back there?”
Now, whatever it is that comes out of your mouth right at that moment, I am willing to bet that it is not something like the following:
“Well, that may be true, officer, but you need to take into account that I am not a tax evader.”
And why not? Well, both you and the traffic cop know that your prompt payments to the IRS have nothing to do with the issue at hand, which is your violation of the speed limit. In other words, though you have scrupulously paid your taxes over the years, your moving violation has made you a lawbreaker at this particular moment.
We know this to be true when it comes to our legal standing. Why then, are we so prone to make a similar nonsensical argument when we are confronted with our violations of God’s law? This is what James is getting at in today’s text.
As a pastor, I have confronted people over stirring up conflict with in the church, only to have them assure me that at least they are not going out on weekends for drinking and carousing. Of course I’m glad for the latter, but the former is what puts them at odds with God’s law for believers.
I believe we have all been guilty of this twisted reasoning, at one time or another. I know I have. It doesn’t work with Highway Patrol, and it certainly doesn’t work with God.
Important note: This kind of mental gymnastics is what allows Christian leaders to lead double lives – as has recently been illustrated for us yet once again. The justification that “I’ve done so much for God that He will surely overlook this area of sin in my life”, besides being patently absurd, is dangerous in the extreme.
May God grant all of us the grace to deal with our sin without making silly excuses.
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