Recently, I heard someone say, “If it weren’t for double standards, we’d have no standards at all.” This was on a political talk show, so the reference was to the political class and the blind spot they have for their own evils. The speaker was noting how politicians are quick to demonize someone else’s presumed wrongs while soft-soaping their own. I believe the general adjective for such actions is “hypocritical.”
I’m assuming the quote was a takeoff of the old saying, “If it wasn’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.” That’s reminiscent of the old, Albert King, blues tune, “Born Under a Bad Sign.” Sometimes it seems like an all-or-nothing situation.
“Vote them all out…”
Unfortunately, double standards are not limited to politicians. If they were, we’d vote them all out of office. We keep them, however, because we’re just like them. It seems to be part of the human condition.
As Christians, we also are plagued by the human condition. I suppose it’s part of the “old man” to which the Apostle Paul liked to refer. We, too, are prone to double standards. Because we are, we protect and defend the parts of our lives that are suspect. At the same time, we attack the standards of others (or lack thereof) with almost no compunction. We do this while giving it virtually no thought whatsoever.
Jesus was constantly running afoul of the Sadducees and Pharisees over this very matter. He didn’t like their hypocritical attitudes. On one occasion, he invited any of them without sin to cast the first stone at another sinner (John 8:7). At least none of them had the hutzpah to take him up on it. They didn’t seem to learn from it, however. Hopefully, we have (or will).
I have watched over the years as some of my clergy colleagues have been raked over the coals because they, somehow, have not measured up. Not only is this done by the laity, often it’s at the hand of their peers in ministry. Much of the time, the passage of Scripture used for this treatment is 1 Timothy 3:1-12. In this pericope, Paul lays out some guidelines for anyone aspiring to be an overseer or deacon. Such positions in those days were generally held by men, so Paul adds a line or two about women being “worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.” In short, these were standards that Paul believed we should all attempt to attain in our daily lives.
“Try not to taint them.”
I use the term, “we,” because these attributes were not a set of double standards. Overseers and deacons were not the only Christians being challenged to reach for these benchmarks. Over the years it has become a double standard because we have made it so.
Most of us have a hard time just living up to the phrase, “temperate and trustworthy in everything.” The rest is almost icing. If you meet someone who’s attained all those attributes, try not to taint them.
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]