James E. Finley

One winter evening when I was a small boy my older brother and sister were doing their homework, mother was washing the dishes, daddy was reading the paper and I was trying to destroy the house and furniture. My daddy, without looking up from his paper, said "behave". Now I was all of five years old and, I thought, very wise in the ways of this world so I said to myself "he didn't call my name and he didn't say not to do something". I continued with my activities and the same warning was repeated a few minutes later. I still felt comfortable with my brilliant idea even after the third warning. My daddy, however, is a baseball fan and he was firmly committed to the proposition that after three strikes you are out. He put his paper down and went to where his razor strap was hanging on a nail.

Now I don't know about other razor straps but my daddy's was the most fearsome instrument of torture ever known to man and when I saw him reach for that ultimate persuader I knew the situation was serious. Just the sight of that strap would instill terror in the hearts of the strongest so with my most pitiful tone of voice and real tears in my eyes, I began to argue my case: "But daddy, you didn't say me and you didn't say not to jump on the furniture." Daddy's answer was very brief "you know very well who I meant and you know very well how to behave", With that I received my reward for some very poor reasoning. I thought I had found a loophole but like most loopholes it didn't work.

As a society we seem to spend a major portion of our time looking for loopholes. Just like the small boy we decide to misbehave or be rebellious and then we look for justification for our actions. We even pay large sums of money to lawyers to present our arguments which when reduced to their substance are about as logical as my argument to my daddy.

It is sad that we can easily see the mistake of a small boy and we even find his plight somewhat amusing, but we often do the same thing in response to God's word. Some of us seem to believe that unless God sends a personal letter to our home address, "He doesn't mean me". The most obvious example of childish thinking with regard to God's word is the person who says 'just show me where the Bible says not to do thus and so" or "I know it doesn't say to do this but it doesn't say not to". This kind of thinking is very common but just as foolish as my response to daddy. We need to understand that the Bible is addressed to mankind - ALL MANKIND - and that it is not intended to be a list of things not to do. Rather, it instructs us how to live a life pleasing to God. If we honestly try we can learn "how to behave" no matter how much we want to do otherwise. The problem is attitude. Why not do the things we know arc right instead of doing wrong and looking for loopholes.

We should be thankful that the Bible contains positive instructions and not a list of forbidden actions. For example, the Bible teaches that we are to put God first in our life. Just think what the list would be if God told us what not to put first. It would include everything ever known or to be known to mankind. To follow the instructions we would have to learn all of the "thou shalt nots". God is wise and He knows how best to give instructions. Man is the problem. We need to learn to spend our energies trying to please God, not trying to find a way around what we know is right.

As a young boy, I rebelled, tried to find a loophole, and was punished. The next day I was a wiser young man but there was no harm done. I could go on with my life. If we refuse to change our ways and use this same childish reasoning with God, we will be held accountable at judgement day. The punishment will be sure but most of all it will be eternal. It is not worth it as a small boy dealing with daddy and it certainly is not worth it as an accountable person dealing with God.