Men often have double standards.
You can see this at play during election season pretty clearly. Side A looks at the misdeeds of the candidate of Side B and says, “Those are horrible.” Side B says, “You can’t prove it happened,” “We don’t believe it happened” and “It does not matter that it happened.”
But when the candidate for Side A is discovered to have done the exact same thing, suddenly the situation is reversed. Hypocrisy abounds and nobody seems to realize that they are doing and saying exactly what the people on the other side are doing and saying, while being upset that those people on the other side are behaving in such a way.
You can see the same thing in families. Divorce is awful, except when suddenly it’s your children wanting the divorce. Judges need to be harder on crime, except when it’s your relative that is on trial. We so often want to apply harsher standards to others than we do to those who are close to us.
We should not do this. Our soul’s salvation depends on us not doing this.
Jesus warned His followers against double standards, saying, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:1-5; NKJV)
Jesus’ words here were not meant, as some suppose, to prevent all judgment and condemnation of actions. Jesus Himself sometimes used pretty strong language to denounce the sins of others (cf. Matthew 23:27-28), and Jesus commanded men to judge others with a righteous judgment (John 7:24). Rather, Jesus is warning against the foolishness of double standards. Those standards you demand others to live up to will be expected of you. Clean up your life so that you will have the capability of helping others with their lives.
God does not have double standards, nor is He impressed with hypocrisy in others.
So much of Jesus’ preaching was against hypocrisy in religious leaders and followers. The Pharisees in particular demanded more out of other people than they were willing to demand of themselves. Seven times, in Matthew 23, as Jesus preached against the Pharisees, He accused them of hypocrisy. As one reads through the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus makes the point, “unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven,” (Matthew 5:20) Elsewhere, identifying those that will be condemned eternally, Jesus says that they will have their “portion with the hypocrites.” (Matthew 24:51)
Hypocrisy presents a real, spiritual danger to the one caught up in the hypocrisy. We must be willing to apply the same standards to ourselves that we demand of others.
Nor does this mean that our standards should be lax. God does not overlook our sins, just because we are willing to tolerate them in others. The murderer does not get to commit murder if he is willing to let others commit murder. The thief cannot justify his stealing by allowing others the same license. The adulterer is not innocent so long as they encourage adultery in others. Rather, God has a single standard and applies it equally to all men.
The apostle Peter, inspired of the Holy Spirit, declared this truth when he said, “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.” (Acts 10:34-35; NKJV)
God does not have double standards. He has standards He expects us to live up to; and those are the standards He expects us to apply to ourselves. These are the standards He expects us to hold others up to as well, regardless of their political party, their relationship to us, or how well we like them.
Thankfully, when we stumble, God is willing to forgive us and show us mercy. This is not a license to sin (cf. Romans 6:1-2), but rather an opportunity to do better.
If you would like to learn more about the mercy of God, in Christ, the church of Christ invites you to study and worship with us at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.