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Grading on the Curve

By Lewis Frisby

religion, articles, christianity

In days of yore, students were graded on how close they came to perfection. If you scored less than 70 percent, you failed. If every student scored less than 70 percent, they all failed.

Later, instructors developed a system of grading that judged the average by the highest and lowest scores with consideration as to how the majority of students were able to answer test questions. This was called "grading on the curve."

It seems that most of the world is under the impression that God judges on the curve. Many appear to think that in the last day they will be judged by how their constituents measure up.

A denominational preacher, when invited to discuss instrumental music in worship, asked, "Would you say it falls into the same category as the sin of smoking?" He was asking is the sin of instrumental music in worship of God a big black sin, or a little white sin.

A lady at a yard sale was discovered to be an erring church member. She excused her lack of attendance with, "I don't drink, I don't smoke, I don't dance, and I don't keep company with those that do!" She thought she was better than the majority of her peers, and Jesus would, therefore, automatically save her. The poor woman was obviously of the opinion that instead of being judged on a definite, written standard, she would be judged on the curve.

This was the problem suffered by the lawyer in Matthew 22:36. He wanted to keep only the most important command, and asked to know what it was.

In much the same way, some brothers think of the laws of God as important or unimportant, big or little, with a view to obeying the big ones and ignoring the small ones. The thinking goes like this: It is a major sin to judge anyone, therefore, it is an insignificant sin to fellowship denominations.

We know it is a sin for women to have a leadership role in public worship, but the singing is poor. It is a big sin to have poor singing, but a little sin for women to lead the singing, therefore, we will have two men and two women do the leading. That ought to satisfy everyone. They will lead as a quartet with one of the men announcing the numbers. Maybe God will judge the performance on the curve. Maybe 1 Timothy 2:12 will be diluted by the ponderous sin of poor singing.

We justify ourselves by ourselves. Paul, through the Spirit, observed: "For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise" (2 Cor. 10:12). We will be judged not on our own conduct or the conduct of others, but by the Word of the living God (John 12:48).

God does not judge on the curve. He has given us a law and by that law we ought to live. Each one of us will be judged by what is written in the book (Rom. 14:12; Rev. 20:12). In the day of final reckoning, I will not get credit for my wife's good behavior and she will not have to answer for my waywardness.

God set the standard. No one except Jesus has ever made the grade. This neither means that the standards can be lowered or that man is doomed. The love of the Father caused him to extend his mercy and grace to man through Jesus Christ. Jesus became a sin offering for us (2 Cor. 5:21). Still, he expects us to conform to the will of God (Matt. 7:21).

Paul answered the question of "shall we sin that grace may abound" with a resounding "God forbid" (Rom. 6:1­2). Our bodies are to be given as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1).

"Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."


Published April 1996