Legalism’s Not-So-Subtle Hypocrisy


Straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel.

We get a glowing example of this hypocrisy in a Washington Post article that ran on Saturday regarding the growing practice of “interest free” Islamic banking around the world. Many Muslims believe that the Quran forbids the practice of charging interest on loans.

To participate in banking practices that involve interest, either as a banker or a consumer, is to sin against Allah. They are told that to go to regular banks means you will fry in hell.

But, where there’s a will there’s a way. In this case, follow the money as they stick to the letter of the law and violate the spirit of it.

Here’s how it works: Let’s say a family wants to buy a house for $100,000> The the bank buys it for that amount and sells then it back to the family for $120,000, which they can pay back over time. Family gets a house, Allah is pleased, hell is avoided, consciences are clear, banker’s pockets are lined. Everybody’s happy, no?

The gnat: don’t charge interest.

The camel: charge interest, but don’t call it interest.

It reminds me of the gnat-straining, camel-swallowing hypocrisy that saturates Christian legalism too. Here are just a few examples that come to mind from my past.

  • Caffeine is a terrible “addictive drug” in drinks like Coke or Mountain Dew (my favorite) that should be abstained from, except when you want to eat a bag of chocolate candy nearly every day.
  • Today’s movies are ungodly worldly entertainment, and movie theaters are off-limits (since you are still supporting “Hellywood”), but we can rent or buy just about anything we want to watch, as long as sufficient time has passed since its original release date and we watch it in our own homes where no one will know we watched it (and we remain hush-hush about it).
  • Almost all contemporary “secular” music is ungodly, but “secular” paintings, poems, children’s books, architecture, and songs written before the 60’s, well, they’re OK.
  • It’s unbiblical for a woman to teach to a group in the church that contains men, unless her husband and/or pastor have given her permission to do so.
  • Any use of alcohol is sinful, but no amount of gluttony is ever taken seriously (look at so many preachers!)
  • It’s wrong for a church to assume a debt to build a building, but the same protesters have mortgages on their homes.
  • It’s wrong to curse, but not to condemn and malign others who don’t measure up to your standards.
  • Emphasizing man-made rules about clothing, hair length, music, dating vs. courting, birth control, etc., while deemphasizing the commands to show love, have mercy, be strong in faith, hope deeply, and display grace. In other words, being dogmatic about things the Bible isn’t (externals), and being generally indifferent about the things it stresses most (issues of the heart).

You get the point.

(Thanks to Gene Edward Veith for the pointer to the article)


2 Responses to Legalism’s Not-So-Subtle Hypocrisy

  1. Derrick says:

    Ha! I was just handed Vieth’s “State of the Arts” a few days ago. Might be a while before I get to it but I did scn out one salient Point that jived with me quite nicely. The concept of the avant-garde necessarily requiring of itself an anti-estabishment postion in order to properly define itself paradoxically requiring government (taxpayer) funding to perpetuate itself. The NEA debacle of the 80’s and the controversy surrounding the Broolyn Museum’s Saatchi exhibition a few years ago highlight this point clearly.

    As for music pre-60’s? Ever listened to Wanda Jackson ( Might have to go back to the 40’s or beyond.

  2. Derrick says:

    Golly gee, someboby needs to teach me how to type proper.

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