When Wisdom Becomes a Sin

When Wisdom Becomes a Sin

I like to deal with issues that are applicable to the culture we live in. For this reason I take the occasional cue from what others are writing about. When we’re all discussing it, it’s probably worth discussing.

I was in a singles’ group once that was going to cover “current cultural issues.” Most of the topics were met with confused looks from the singles because not one of us had an issue with any of the “issues.” But when we were allowed to express our own ideas about issues we faced every day, we had more than enough fodder for the discussion.

David Crabb has once again put his finger on an important cultural issue in many churches in his article entitled Forbidding What God Allows. The title is extremely clear and the topic necessary.

David’s key idea can be summed up in the following quote:

“When I allow what God prohibits, I am setting myself up as god–as the lawgiver. My rule is supreme. On the same token, when I prohibit what God allows, I am not ‘erring on the side of caution,’ but am actually setting myself up as god–as the lawgiver. My rule is supreme. If I cannot prove that God prohibits something, then I should simply acknowledge it. I might have an entire list of reasons I believe a certain course of action to be best, but far better to use words like ‘wisdom’ and ‘prudence,’ rather than absolute moral terms (e.g. ‘sinful’).”

A perfect New Testament example of this is when Jesus Christ was condemned by the Pharisees for “working” on the Sabbath (this happened frequently). First, we must recognize that Jesus never sinned. He was incapable of breaking the Sabbath. Second, we have to understand that the “laws” He was breaking had been instituted by men, not God. Therefore, the religious leaders of that day were telling God Himself that He was breaking His own law. They set themselves up “as god – as the lawgiver. [Their] rule [was] supreme.”

What’s the application for us?

David’s article was helpful, but I’d like to put a finer point on it. We have every right as believers to uphold God’s law to the minutest. Adultery is always a sin. Gossip is always a sin. Bitterness is always a sin. Gluttony is always a sin. Vile speech is always a sin. But not everything in the Bible is a command. There are many principles and even some suggestions as to how we are to live. It is up to the individual Christian to apply these principles in the most Christ-honoring way possible.

Let’s take the example of women wearing pants. I admit that this is not the hot-button topic is used to be, but it will serve my illustration well. The Bible has nothing to say concerning whether women are allowed to have one pant leg (skirt) or two (pants). Deuteronomy 22:5 is the only “proof-text” that has ever been used for this issue. It says,

A woman shall not wear man’s clothing, nor shall a man put on a woman’s clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God.”

This question has at least two main principles that apply to it. One, many of the sundry laws concerning clothing no longer apply to Christians under the New Covenant. Two, in our culture people make pants for women. There are men’s pants and women’s pants. A woman in pants is not a woman in men’s clothing. To flatly preach that a woman in pants is a direct violation of Scripture is as absurd as saying that a man wearing a shirt is a sin because women wear shirts and men aren’t to wear women’s clothes.

Millions of people have taken this verse, misapplied it, and have been acting as the Law-Giver by condemning women for wearing pants made for women.

Please understand, it is not wrong for a woman to never wear slacks. It is not wrong for a woman to think it best for her to not don pants. But it is wrong for anyone to tell a women in pants that she is sinning (barring indecency and immodesty – both clear biblical commands).

If God’s Word demands it, we must demand it. If God’s Word applies it, we must apply it. If the Bible takes it back, so should we. But where God is silent, we should tread carefully. Where God does not apply, we should not command. We must always apply God’s Word to every area of our existence, but we must not call sin what God has not called sin.

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7 thoughts on “When Wisdom Becomes a Sin

  1. Anonymous

    Good post Aron. Many areas to be careful here with the Bible. Since you mentioned clothing I will comment on that.

    The pants discussion is much easier now than it was for good church leaders 50 years ago, I think this new generation should consider that when judging older preachers who were trying to hold the line. Today of course itr seems absured. You also don’t mention what to do if a woman wears man’s pants (which is hard to prove since they are really the same in some cases. So the fight to keep this verse is dead where women are concerned. Now the Man’s part is still applicable so good church leaders would still preach against a man in a 1 legged pant suit you call a skirt. (For now) At least I believe they are right to uphold that a man should not wear women’s clothing. (which a skirt is still culturaly restricted to woman. At least all bathrooms tell me so in the western world on the door) It will be interesting what happens if the males in our culture start wearing skirts. I predict the church would try to stand firm and eventually whne the 90 percent of the unsaved population make it the cultural norm the church will stop that fight as well.

    The issue is that the cultural nortms changed and the church ultimately moved with it.

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    1. AMBrewster

      Well spoken, Mike. I’ve always said that if we could fast forward 100 years into the future we would find Bible believing men and women dressing in ways we thought were never acceptable. I believe this because if we went back in time 100 years, most Christians would probably be scandalized by our modes of dress.

      You are correct in your observation that culturally there is not a commonly accepted men’s skirt. People have tried to popularize men’s makeup, skirts, and jewelry, but most of it has never caught on . . . except the jewelry.

      The point is, God wants there to be a distinction between men and women. That is the clear command. But to say that pants on women, earrings on men, short hair on women, or makeup on men (consider the theater application) is sinful in our present day and age is overstepping God’s Word.

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  2. You mentioned short hair on women. Is hair as a covering no longer a concern in regard to the line of authority or attitude of subjection? I have not heard a teaching on this subject that appears to answer this question for our times. I’m interested in your thoughts on the subject.

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    1. AMBrewster

      This is definitely an issue that good people disagree on. A couple interesting points that are brought up concerning this question are as follows: 1. There is a cultural dimension (as with pants) where a head covering is no longer a culturally recognized sign of submission. 2. Long hair is the glory of women, but ancient men had long hair as well. It is difficult to justify from that one passage that “short” hair on a woman (a subjective concept in itself) is a sin.

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  3. Ever heard of kilts? They are acceptable in Scotland and have been for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Again, culture defines normalcy. Placing ones own brand of “normal” on anyone has far reaching consequences.

    This is why I live by my mantra of “keep your religion out of government” because eventually you are going to be on the wrong end of the God-war and then you are going to be the ones persecuted.

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  4. AMBrewster

    Larry,
    The funny thing about this particular comment from you is that you are perfectly agreeing with what I have said. I find that refreshing given our recent interactions. :-)

    My whole point in this article has to do with being careful calling things sin which aren’t sin. You’re right. Scottish men wear kilts. They’re not women’s clothing. They’re kilts made for men. Hence, there is nothing wrong with wearing one. It’s not a skirt. It’s a kilt. Coming from the son of a seamstress, and a man who sold women’s clothing, I can say there is a significant difference between a kilt and skirt.

    Let’s take your final statement to it’s greatest length. Let’s remove all religion from government. Did you know that most of the laws on the books in every country in the world grew out of a religious belief system? There goes the laws concerning murder, paligamy, and rape. Bye bye, laws concerning slavery. See you later, laws about incest.

    Have youever counted how many times the word “God” shows up in our governmental documents? Our country was founded on religious principles. It is impossible to remove religion from govenment. God ordained the rules for countries to work well. If you try to run your country in another way . . . your country will fail.

    Lastly, I am not afraid of persecution. If persecution comes because I have chosen to share God’s truth, so be it.

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  5. Pingback: #TBTB #TBT – “When Wisdom Becomes a Sin” | Taking Back the Bible

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