What is Your Standard???
Prior to 1933, the United States followed the gold standard monetary system for currency. In a nutshell, the gold standard means that a country's currency is established, controlled, and backed by the true value of gold. So, if for example, the value of gold is $100 per ounce, then $1 of currency has an equivalent value of 1/100th of an ounce of gold. In fact, prior to WW1, nations would conduct trade in physical gold. A nation who had a surplus in trade would gain gold as payment for their exports, whereas a nation with a deficit would see their gold reserves decline. This meant that a nation was unable to issue additional currencies above the value of their actual gold reserves, because at any time the currency could be exchanged for gold. This prevents the effects of inflation, where a currency's value loses purchasing power.
Countries today, including the United States no longer use the gold standard. Today's currency is fiat money, or government-issued currency that is not backed by a physical commodity, such as gold or silver, but rather by the government that issued it. The value of fiat money is derived from the relationship between supply and demand and the stability of the issuing government, rather than the worth of a commodity backing it as is the case for commodity money. In 1933,under the gold standard, an average home might cost around $4800. That means that the home, $4800 in paper currency, and 182.3 ounces of gold (at $26.33 per ounce) all had the same value. In 2019 under our current monetary system, the same average home would cost you around $382,000; the same $4800 in paper currency is still worth $4800; and the same 182.3 ounces of gold would now be worth $276,141 (at $1,514.75 per ounce)...that's how inflation works.
What's my point in this little economics lesson? The standard of measurement that you use matters! In this week's scripture lesson from Hebrews, the author provides a number of practical instructions for Christian living. By worldly standards, most of these would be of little concern? Why would anyone care much about my level of hospitality towards others or my concern for prisoners? Many people wouldn't think twice about my sexual purity or my fidelity to my wife. Moreover, most people would encourage me to get as much wealth and "stuff" as I can...YOLO! And don't even get me started on how we view our leaders...or the example that many of them set! My point is simply that for most of us, these are personal and private issues. They are of little or no concern to anyone else. What I do with my own life is my business and apart from doing something illegal, no one has any right to tell me I'm wrong.
So, why does God spend so much time speaking to us through his world about how we are to live our lives? Why does he care so much. Sure, theft, cruelty, and murder...those are issues God should be concerned about. But why does he care what I do with my money? Is it really such a big deal that I enjoy looking at pornographic images or videos if I'm not actually engaging in physical adultery with another person? Why do these things really matter? Isn't it just like speeding? Is a crime with no victim really a crime??? The way we think about and answer these questions, and others like them, depends heavily on the standard by which we measure morality. Do we follow the world's standard or God's?
God goes to great lengths to speak into our lives about our personal holiness because it is vitally important to our well-being. When we measure by the low standard of humanity, it is easy to be deceived about the severity of our sinfulness. However, when your standard is the ultimate perfection and holiness of God, we can see how quickly we fail to measure up. But God's purpose isn't necessarily to crush us under the weight of his glory, but rather to set us on a path toward human flourishing. When we live according to God's design, we get to experience all that it truly means to be human.
It is easy to follow the status quo. A friend recently said something that resonated with me. He said that when you want to get smarter, you read and study. When you want to be healthy, you exercise and eat well. It's easy and appealing to watch TV and sit on the couch eating junk food. But getting to what is good, or even what is best requires sacrifice and effort. There's a great deal of wisdom in his words. When my focus is always on me, my wants, and my needs; I will always be looking to myself as my own functional god. But when my focus is on God, and his commandments, and his design for humanity; I will rightly see myself in light of God, who he is, and my place and part in his kingdom.
If you missed this week's sermon (or just want to listen again), follow the link below to listen. Or subscribe to our podcast in iTunes.
Part 37 - Do this don't do that
Questions discussed in the sermon:
1. How do beliefs always have consequences?
2. Why is our holiness so important?
3. What is the basis for Christian holiness?
Next week's lesson: Hebrews 13:9-14