By Aude McKee
In Eliphaz’s speech in the fourth chapter of the book of Job, in verse seventeen he asked, “Shall mortal man be more just than God? Shall a man be more pure than his maker?” Whatever the correct rendering of the passage may be, we think the question as it appears in the King James Version is one appropriate to our own time and circumstances. It seems that there are people today who are making themselves more righteous than God. Let me suggest some of them and see if you agree.
There is a vocal group of people in America today who oppose capital punishment. If you were unfamiliar with the teachings of God’s word, you would think that anyone who would advocate the death penalty for serious crime would be about as hard-hearted and wicked as a person could get. But it is interesting that God ordained capital punishment in the period of the patriarchs. In Genesis 9:6, God told Noah, “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” This life for life punishment was imposed by God, not out of disregard for the sacredness of life but because of it. And then in the Mosaic age, there were at least sixteen crimes that merited the death penalty: murder, kidnaping, rebellion to parents, incest, malicious carelessness (like allowing a dangerous animal to run loose and kill someone), homosexuality, bestiality, witchcraft, idolatry, blasphemy, rape, adultery, prostitution, false prophesying, rebellion against judges and violation of the Sabbath.
And then there is no doubt that God has authorized capital punishment in the New Testament. In Romans 13:1-6, several points are made clear. First, civil government is of divine origin – it has been ordained by God. Second ‘ there are at least two purposes to be served by civil government: He (it) is the minister of God for good, and he (it) is to execute punishment on evil doers. Also it is interesting to note that the passage says that he (it) does not bear the sword in vain. A sword is an instrument associated with death. It is worthy of note that the passage does not say that the civil authority does not bear the whip in vain. Without doubt the passage gives civil authorities the right to take life – use the sword when the crime merits such drastic punishment. So the point we are making is simply this – those who oppose the death penalty today are so “righteous” that they make God look like a murderer! God could take life (Acts 5:1-11) or command it to be done (Exod. 21:15-17) but we have people today who are too good to do it.
In recent articles in the local newspaper I noticed that those who champion the rights of animals are one of the fastest growing movements in America. And I observed that the mail runs about 100 to I against the use of animals in medical research. In one of these articles one man was quoted as saying that “animals evolved along with humans and each one has its niche.” If a woman wears a coat made of animal skins, she has committed an unpardonable sin in the eyes of some. And it has been observed by someone that in some cases, the very people who are opposed to killing animals are in the forefront of the pro-abortion movement! Just recently in Dickson, TN, the city had a pigeon killing to reduce the bird population. You can imagine the uproar that produced! And again the question of Eliphaz is right on target: “Shall mortal man be more just than God?” In Genesis 3:21, “God made coats of skin and clothed them.” Then think of the millions of animals the patriarchs and the Jews offered in sacrifices to God. In Acts 10:10-13, Peter was told to “arise, kill and eat.”
Discipline of Children
A third application that needs to be made of Eliphaz’s question is in regard to the discipline of children. In the Nashville Tennessean of August 25, 1990, “Parents were advised by a national organization of social workers to stop spanking their children. This policy is an expansion of one opposing physical punishment in school adopted six years ago.” Then from the same paper, August 13, 1990, we learned that “Adults who were spanked as children – even if only occasionally – are more likely to physically abuse their spouses or children, assault non-family members or commit theft, according to a study released yesterday. Although physical punishment does, on the average, correct the child’s misbehavior, the long-term effects are to increase the probability of misbehavior-delinquency, drug use, violent and criminal behavior.” When people get “more righteous than God,” it is no wonder the world continues to grow worse and worse. One need only read passages like Proverbs 13:24, 22:15, 23:13-14, 29:15, and Hebrews 12:5-12, to appreciate God’s attitude toward discipline.
And then there are those who argue that there is no scriptural reason for divorce and remarriage. Years ago I attended one night of a debate where this question was discussed and the brother who took this position used his own son as an illustration, as I recall. It was sad to hear him argue that his son, whose wife had been unfaithful to him and was put away for this cause and had remarried, was in a lost condition. I do not recall the arguments that were made to sustain this position on that occasion, but some argue that marriage is for life and so a second union could not be formed as long as the first partner was still living. We certainly agree that in God’s arrangement, marriage is a life-long commitment. Such passages as Genesis 2:24, Mark 10:6-12, Luke 16:18, Romans 7:2-3, 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 and 7:39 make this abundantly clear. But the simple truth is that the one who made the law has a perfect right to make an exception. Aod that he did! Matthew 5:32 and J9:9 teach this truth beyond any doubt. Certainly there has never been a. time in the history of America when plain, straightforward teaching about marriage, divorce and remarriage is more needed than now, but we want to be sure that we don’t become “more righteous than God” on the subject.
Other applications could be made, but these examples will suffice to warn us about becoming more holy than God. ‘There is always the danger that we will become like the Pharisees of the Lord’s day. They, the Lord said, sat in Moses’ seat and they bound “heavy burdens and grievous to be borne.”
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 5, pp. 141, 148
March 7, 1991