Have you ever listened to church people talk? You might hear things like: “Good Christians don’t wear make-up” (usually said by those who need to wear it) or “Good Christians wouldn’t have a cigar after dinner” (usually said by someone who eats a half gallon of ice cream for dessert). We all have a list, and some of you are laughing because I haven’t gotten to your list.
If we’re not careful, we can become narrow and self-righteous and become Super Saints. We become more religious than God. Instead of four spiritual laws, we have 10, or maybe 20. We’ve even developed our own vocabulary. We ask people, “When you answer the phone do you say, ‘Praise the Lord’? Do you say ‘Hallelujah’?” “No, I say, ‘Same to yah.’” They look down at those who simply say “Hello.”
Someone bragged to me about getting rid of his TV. “Satan’s idiot box,” he called it. He asked me if I had one. I was intimidated and said, “No.” And I don’t have one. I have two, but I didn’t tell him that because I don’t want to be on his list.
A pastor friend of mine is on someone’s list. He bought the wrong kind of car. The first year at his church, an auto dealer offered him a really good deal on a used Lincoln. It was only a year old, and it was a great deal so he bought the car. He got into real trouble because a pastor shouldn’t drive a Lincoln. That was on the no-no list. He took the car back, and one of his leaders advised him to buy a new Buick. That was okay with the church people, even though the new Buick cost more than the old Lincoln. But the Buick wasn’t on their list. There is something spiritual about a new Buick, and something about an old Lincoln that isn’t.
We sanitize and spiritualize our lists. People even take the Bible and tell me things like, “I have the gift of prophecy. That means I point out everyone’s mistakes and problems.” I tell them, “You don’t have the gift of prophecy; you have the gift of being a pain in the neck. Prophecy means to speak forth the good news.” I’ve also noticed their family relationships aren’t very healthy. When Mr. or Mrs. Right’s first name is “Always,” they are hard to live with. (Maybe that’s why they spend so much time at church doing a lot of prophesying and being religious.)
If we’re not careful, we can get to a point where we lose our joy in living because we’re fixated on our list, and we’re trying to force everyone to abide by it.
People with lists have always been among us. Dr. Barnhouse, a theologian of yesteryear, was preaching at a Bible conference. Two women cornered him and complained about some young girls at the conference who weren’t wearing stockings. They told Dr. Barnhouse that women at a church service should wear stockings, and they wanted him to do something about it. Keep in mind that this stocking incident happened in the 1920s. Barnhouse looked at them and said, “The Virgin Mary never wore stockings.” They gasped and said, “She didn’t?” He answered, “In Mary’s time, stockings were unknown. They were first worn by prostitutes in Italy.” I love it when another pastor says stuff like that. I know he’s on their list instead of me.
There are lots of lists out there. A woman confronted one pastor after the service because she had heard through the grapevine that he occasionally had a cigar. She said, “I’m praying for you, pastor.” He said, “Sister, I’m praying for you, too.” She said, “You don’t seem to understand. I’m praying that God will help you stop that nasty habit you have.” He said, “Well, Sister, you don’t seem to understand either. I’m praying God will help you keep your nose out of my business.”
Do you have a list? Are you checking it twice? Are you trying to figure out who is naughty or nice? Forget it. You’re not Santa Claus, and you’re definitely not God. At one time you were on God’s list, but He tore it up. Tear up your list instead of tearing up other people, and keep your nose out of God’s business.