Tim Richards Column: Good Attitudes Trump Good Rules

Tim Richards, Special to The Rolla Daily News
USA TODAY NETWORK

In the July 21, 2021, Our Daily Bread devotional, David Roper wrote about his personal experience when years ago he applied for a position at a Christian organization. The group’s rules for employment detailed personal behavior “having to do with the use of alcohol, tobacco, and certain forms of entertainment.” When he asked about the rules they explained, “We expect Christian behavior from our employees.”

The list was not a problem for Roper, but for reasons unrelated to his faith. Most rules on their list were in line with how he chose to live. However, he later reflected on the things which were not on their “Christian behavior” list and asked, “Why don’t they have a list about not being arrogant, insensitive, harsh, spiritually indifferent, and critical? None of these were addressed.”

According to the Bible, keeping a list of rules does not automatically make us right with God. I am not suggesting rules are bad, but they are also not foundational to pleasing God. Consider these well-known words from Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount, commonly called the beatitudes. “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted. God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth. God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied. God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy. God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God. God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God. God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.” (Matthew 5:3-10, NLT)

Jesus did not say God blesses those who keep a set of rules, even if it is an exceptionally good list. Roper paraphrased Jesus’ list saying God blesses those who are, “humble and self-effacing... gentle and kind… long for goodness in themselves and in others… are merciful to those who struggle and fail… are single-minded in their love for Jesus… are peaceful and leave behind a legacy of peace, are kind to those who misuse them, returning good for evil…”

The reality is that people who develop godly attitudes make a greater impact than those who merely follow rules. Often those who unthinkingly obey laws feel superior to those who do not. I am not attacking rules, they are necessary, but good attitudes consistently trump good rules. Godly attitudes make a powerful difference not only in us, but also in those around us.

During four decades as a pastor, Tim Richards has served five churches, three in rural Missouri and two in St. Louis. He may be reached by email at iamtimrichards@yahoo.com.