Mike Johnson

 Consider a case where an officer might pull someone over for speeding.  The officer approaches the stopped car, and the driver responds by saying, “I know that I was going over the speed limit, but I have probably been passed by two hundred cars just in the last thirty minutes.”  He then may ask, “What about all of those other cars?”  “Why did you stop me?”   The officer may respond sarcastically by saying, “Well, I guess it was just your lucky day,” or he may say more seriously, “I can’t stop everybody.”   The fact is, it does not matter how fast the other cars are going; we are still not justified in speeding.

Spiritually, people often have the same attitude as the driver.  They engage in activities that are wrong, and then they try to justify themselves by the practices of others.  A person might say, “I know that I do some things which are not right, but I am not as bad as a lot of people.”  Is this a legitimate justification?

Romans one and two present a picture of the condition of the Jews and Gentiles.  In chapter one, the Gentiles are depicted as very immoral (vs. 26-32), and they were also idolaters (vs. 21-23).  The Jews who read this letter might have heartedly commended Paul’s rebuke of the Gentiles.  Generally, the Jews were not idolaters and probably did not engage in sin to the same extent as the Gentiles.  Yet, Paul tells them that they were “inexcusable” and in danger of the judgment of God.   Both groups were wrong and needed to repent (3:23, 6:23).

Recall also the case of Peter denying the Lord (three times) after His arrest (Mt. 26:69-75).  After the third time, after Jesus looked at him, the Scriptures say that Peter went out and wept bitterly.  Peter was ashamed of what he had done, but he might have reacted differently.  Peter might have said, “At least I wasn’t one of the people who crucified Him,” or he might have defended himself by saying, “I wasn’t like most of my fellow Jews who did not believe that Jesus was the Son of God.”  He might have also asked, “Where are the other Apostles; at least I was there?”  Any attempts of this nature that Peter might have made would have been useless.  The fact that he might have been “better than others” would not have justified his sin.

Earlier, there were certain chief rulers who believed that Jesus was the Son of God, but they would not confess Him for fear of being put out of the synagogue (Jn. 12:42-43).  They might have attempted to justify themselves by saying, “At least we did believe on Him—most of the chief rulers did not.”  No, in spite of what others might have done, they were still just as wrong (Mt. 10:32-33).

Some people today try to justify neglect by saying that they are better than some in the church, or they may say in their defense that there are hypocrites in the church.  It may be that the one who makes this defense is right.  He may be better morally than some who attend church services, and there may be some church members who are hypocrites.  However, the person who attempts this method of justification is still just as loss.

The Bible tells us that we are to give as we have been prospered on the first day of the week, and it also points out that God loves a cheerful giver (I Cor. 16:1-2, II Cor. 9:7).  Some try to justify an insufficient amount of giving by comparing themselves to someone else.  They may point out that they give more than a particular person in the church.  The other person may not have prospered as much, but, even if the other person’s giving is insufficient, he is not the standard, and no justification can be made by such a comparison.

On the highway, someone else will almost always be going faster than we are.  The law, however, does not look at that as an excuse for us to speed.  Spiritually, there is always going to be someone committing more sins than we commit or someone who is sinning to a greater extent.  Yet, we are not justified in our wrong; the Bible is our standard; the standard is not what other people do.