How to Interpret the Bible Lesson #22 - Expediency Today 1
Introduction. After carefully assessing all that God has said about expediency, we find three foundation principles.
- Third, we must assess those in the church and in the world to be certain it will not harm them or damage our influence. Could it lead others into sin by violating their conscience? Will it cause someone to fall away or create turmoil in the church? Only after we are confident that none of these things are involved can we see it as expedient.
There are many things that people think are expediencies, but they are forbidden by principles and commands in the Scripture. Although the length of a dress may change from generation to generation, the principle of modesty cannot be violated. No sister in Christ can wear clothing that would cause any brother to stumble into lust. The use of alcohol for other than medicinal purposes has been placed by some into the realm of expediency, but it doesn’t belong there. God has spoken clearly on the use of alcohol. “Wine is a mocker, Strong drink is a brawler, And whoever is led astray by it is not wise.” (Pr. 20:1). All drunkenness is sin and for some that is only one or two drinks. The use of tobacco has also been deemed by some to fall under the realm of expediency. Yet it violates the absolutes of things that bring one into the bondage of addiction. It also damages the body, which is God’s temple (Rom. 12:1), and also brings shame and reproach on ourselves or the church in the eyes of many. When movies were first introduced into our culture, it was considered sinful for Christians to attend. Over time the culture has shifted and no one sees it like this any more. Although the decision to go to a movie certainly falls into expediency, yet once again, there are Scriptures that limit us regarding violence, modesty, and sexual lust. Not every movie is expedient.
What about other cultural changes? God wants a man to have short hair and a woman to have long hair. “Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him? But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering. (1Cor. 11:14-15). But as the culture changes, the length of hair considered too long or not long enough changes. Along with the command comes the tolerance and the concern not to bind our own opinions on others.
Another cultural change centers on clothing. “A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman's garment, for all who do so are an abomination to the Lord your God.” (Deut. 22:5). There should be a clear distinction between men’s and women's clothing. Yet it is the culture that determines these things. We are told that at the time of Christ, men wore long flowing robes that would be seen as dresses today. In years gone by, women always wore dresses and men wore pants. That distinction has changed. Today there are pants for men and pants for women. So what is the standard? From the principles above, we learn that we must not be the first to engage in these changes as it would be a clear violation of God’s will. But until it has been completely accepted by the culture, it will still be offensive to many. It takes time for the line to move. Often it takes the passing of a couple of generations before it would be fully accepted as the norm. But as time passes and the attitudes of society begin to change, the line begins to move, and we must eventually accept it if it doesn't violate Scripture. It is always difficult for the older generation to accept the changes of the new generation and equally difficult for the younger generation to understand why the older generation struggles with these things. Yet the principles of expediency demand that we be understanding of each other's struggles.
The same thing is happening today with jewelry. But since these are recent changes, we are nowhere near this becoming the norm. It was not that long ago that women wore necklaces and earrings while men did not. Christians saw these things (necklace and earrings) as pertaining to a woman. But now the culture is slowly shifting. Since there was a time in the Scriptures when both men and women wore earrings: “break off the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me” (Ex 32:2), we must accept these changes as only part of the culture. The older generation still sees earrings and necklaces as pertaining to women. That’s how we were raised (yes I admit I am part of the older generation). But in the next few decades, our attitude will have to change if things continue as they are today. There is no doubt God has not condemned men wearing earrings. It is cultural and not scriptural, so the time will come when we will no longer be able to say that earrings only pertain to women.
There is another cultural shift that is moving across the nation. In years gone by, men wore suits and women wore dresses to formal occasions like weddings, funerals and important events. Because of this, those in the church expected the same for our worship, since God is a great King and Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. God does expect us to wear clothing that shows our respect for Him in worship and it is disrespectful for us to do otherwise. But the culture will dictate what these clothes are. In the not so distant past, these clothes were a suit or at least a tie for men and a nice dress for a woman. But that too is shifting. Not everyone wears suits to work, a wedding or a funeral anymore. The culture is now accepting of this and we are watching a shift that may bring a new generation that sees suits as a thing of the past and not a sign of respect or disrespect. But since we know they did not wear suits and ties in the time of Christ, we can’t bind it as law. We must watch the culture and adapt when appropriate and in line with the Scriptures. Just as the first to change violates the Scripture, so do those who are the last to change and begin to look antiquated.
All these general commands allow human wisdom in fulfilling them. They are not absolutes since God did not specify anything about food, birthdays, men’s and women’s clothing, jewelry, or the type of clothing that shows respect. But before we move forward with any of these, we have to take the time to consider the impact it will have. Expediency does not give rights. It gives the opportunity to show love, to show respect for the opinions of others, and to consider the affects our decisions on things that don’t matter might have upon them.
Conclusion. Expedients are useful. They allow us the latitude to make many decisions for ourselves in the things described above. But we must be so very careful. If it causes someone to stumble, we sin against Christ. If there is any doubt, then we are condemned because “whatever is not from faith is sin.” (Rom. 14:22-23). All expedients are engaged in based on one central truth:
- “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.” (1Cor. 10:31-33)
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