“No, this city will not be an iron pot for you, and you will not be like meat safe inside it. I will judge you even to the borders of Israel, and you will know that I am the Lord. For you have refused to obey my decrees and regulations; instead, you have copied the standards of the nations around you.” (Ezekiel 11:11-12)
Between my freshman & sophomore years of college, I worked at a grocery store called Farmer Jack. I was initially hired as a stocker, and my primary responsibilities were to unload the trailers and keep the shelves full and organized. When I finished unloading my pallets, I also learned to operate the cash registers and how to do the nightly reports and cash drops. I was a young guy with a strong back and enjoyed the work, so I worked hard at it.
One day, the union rep pulled me aside to let me know that I was causing problems for my co-workers. Apparently, I was not taking enough smoke breaks (I didn’t smoke!) and I was stocking the shelves too quickly. He explained that when I worked too quickly it raised the managers’ expectations for everyone and it made the others look bad in comparison. He warned me that if I didn’t slow down or take my full smoke break allotment that he would try to get me fired. This floored me, as it went against everything I had been taught about how you are supposed to conduct yourself on a job. I refused to lower my standards, which cost me some friendships at that job, but I could punch out at the end of the shift knowing that I had given my best.
Ultimately, we are all held to some kind of standard in life, from grading scales in school, to performance evaluations at work, and social comparisons (e.g. keeping up with the Joneses). The question is what standard will you hold yourself to and what is important to you? Is a C good enough, when you know you are capable of earning the A? Does it matter that your neighbor has a nicer yard/house/car than you? These are questions that we all must answer for ourselves.
However, when it comes to righteousness, we don’t have to spend time questioning what is expected of us. God has the highest expectations for you! In his famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus used several examples to explain that God’s standards go beyond our outward actions to inner attitudes and motivations. It’s not enough to not murder someone; you must not harbor malice or an unforgiving attitude against them. It’s not enough to not cheat on your spouse; you must not lust after others. It’s not enough to give to the needy; you must not do it for the approval of others. In every way, God kicks it up a notch. It’s a high standard, and we will not always hit the bullseye, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.
We all have a code that we live by, even if we can’t always articulate it. There are things we will and won’t accept, lines we won’t cross. Where will you get your standards? Have you “copied the standards of the nations around you?” Are you making it up as you go? Or will you commit to living according to God’s standards?
PRAYER: Father, thank you for clearly revealing the standards of holiness by which we will be judged. Help us to not be content with “good enough” and to constantly push ourselves to live according to your standards. Transform our hearts so we are not living in obedience because of religious obligation, but because we desire to please you. In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.