What We Can Learn from Josh Duggar

A lot has been written about the revelation that Josh Duggar molested several girls when a teenager. Probably more is yet to come. The situation is tragic. But as with all difficult situations, there are also lessons to be learned.

One of the things we’ve learned from this is that the double standard in our culture runs deep. If you’re a professing Christian something like this is going to be treated differently in the media than it will be for almost anyone else. When it’s Lena Dunham or Harvey Milk, the outrage is noticeably less – non-existent in fact for Milk. Heck, we put him on a stamp.

Secondly, many commenting on the situation have reminded us of God’s grace. No sin is too terrible for God to forgive. The same Christ who forgave and used the murderer of Christians, the Apostle Paul, stands ready to forgive you and me no matter what we’ve done. One of the best things I’ve read on this score is by Michael Brown. He says:

The fact is, the very best of us are worthless wretches outside of His grace, and on the holiest day of our lives, in ourselves, we are utterly depraved in light of God’s perfect brightness.

To that I say “Amen.”

However, there’s a third thing we can learn that I’ve not yet seen anyone address.

The teaching of Bill Gothard  embraced by the Duggars is steeped in legalism and self-righteousness. It tends to see sin as something that is “out there” that I have to protect my children from. So, the way to have “good” kids is to keep them away from things – immodest clothes and people (as defined by Gothard who ironically has also resigned due to sexual impropriety), “secular” music (however one defines that) and, of course, public school just to name a few. Certainly some of those things can be bad influences but sin is not something that is “out there.” Sin is inside us, it is a heart issue. Jesus said:

For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone. – Matthew 15:19-20

No amount of man-made rules will keep us or our kids from sin. Let that be one of the lessons we take away from this as well. What Josh Duggar needed and what we all need is the grace of God and a transformed heart not a list of dos and don’ts that may have the appearance of wisdom but offer no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh (Colossians 2:23).

Does Leviticus 27 Teach that Women are Worth Less than Men?

Does Leviticus 27 Teach that Women are Worth Less than Men?One of the charges leveled at the Bible and at Christianity is that it devalues women. In support of this belief, certain proof-texts are often trotted out.

One such passage is Leviticus 27:1-8. In this passage, Moses gives the Israelites instructions for how to “redeem” a person who has been dedicated to the LORD’s service. In Old Testatment Israel, it was possible to make a vow dedicating yourself or one of your children to the LORD. This person then served full time in the temple. You see an example of this in I Samuel chapter one. Samuel’s mother Hannah dedicates him to the LORD’s service and Samuel goes to live in the temple beginning right after he’s weaned, eventually becoming Israel’s last Judge before the monarchy is established.

However, in this passage in Leviticus, Moses explains how, by paying a specified amount to the Temple, the person dedicated to the LORD can be released from the vow. A value is specified for each type of person with the value to redeem females set lower than the value for males. Gottcha! The Bible says women are worth less than men!

But, there’s more to it than that. As you read the passage, notice there are differing values for several categories of people. The most valuable is a male between the ages of 20 – 60. After that is a female in that age range. Then for younger males and females there are lower values – the younger the person the lower the value. The same is true for those in advanced age. People over 60 are valued less then people between 20 – 60. But still, within each age group, the value placed on females is less than that placed on males.

While that seems to say women are not as valuable to God as men, I submit these amounts have nothing to do with the intrinsic worth of the individuals. This is a value based on financial or productivity considerations. In an agrarian, manual-labor intensive society, young, strong men were worth more to the culture than were women, children and the aged. Even when younger or older, a man, because of his strength, was worth more compared to a woman of the same age. But, it’s interesting to note, a woman in the prime of health (between the ages of 20 – 60) is worth more than an older or younger male.

A similar principle is seen later in the chapter with regard to valuing land (Leviticus 27: 22-25). The closer in time to the year of Jubilee, the less was required to redeem the land because there was less productive time left before the land reverted to the original owner. Exact same parcel of land but differing values for redemption based on the amount of productive output expected.

So what’s being recognized here is that young, strong men are worth more when you have manual labor to do than are their female counterparts.

You have similar valuations based on skills today. A doctor is “worth” more from a financial standpoint than a sales clerk. It has nothing to do with the intrinsic value of the person but with what they bring to the culture skills-wise. Sometimes the value is based on circumstances.

Is a plumber “worth” more than a doctor? Yes, if I have a broken pipe pouring water into my basement.

Is a young man in ancient Israel “worth” more than a woman? Yes, if I have a field to plow.

While the Bible speaks of differing roles for men and women, it does not teach that men and women have different worth in the eyes of God simply because of their gender.

Should Payday Loans be Controlled by the Government?

According to a recent article in the Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) is partnering with several other organizations to “target” payday loans. They see these loans as an abuse of the poor and want the federal government to “put an end to the predatory practices of payday lending.”

So what exactly does that mean? Do they want all businesses who provide short-term loans to be forcibly closed by the government? Do they want the federal government to fix prices for this type of loan? For all loans? Do they want the government to force these lenders to give preferential rates to people with certain incomes, regardless of credit history? Do they want government to force banks and other traditional lenders to provide loans to those who otherwise would not qualify (can you say sub-prime mortgage crisis)?

One of the problems with social justice crusades is that social justice is hard to define. What exactly is a “just” interest rate or a “just” price for a car or a loaf of bread? The Bible verses referenced in the BP article quote 0% when they reference interest, is that what they’re suggesting?

There’s also a fundamental misunderstanding of the free market and of economic principles behind this push. Interest is not a random number. Interest is a price. It is the price of money. Price is where the interests of the consumer and of the business intersect. General Motors cannot charge anything they want for a new Chevrolet. They can only charge what people are willing to pay. If they cannot make a Chevrolet for less than what the public is willing to pay for it, they will stop making Chevrolets. If these payday lenders are simply greedy predators out to make as much money as they can on the backs of the poor, why don’t they charge twice or three-times the rates they currently do? After all, they’d make more money that way.

Many a social justice crusader has tried to use government price fixing to help the poor. Unfortunately, when the price a business can charge is set below the market rate, the poor (and everyone else) soon find the store shelves empty. Try to buy a television or a roll of toilet paper in Caracas these days.

The truth is these lenders provide a service that is needed – otherwise they wouldn’t exist. One of the unintended consequences of forcing lenders in high risk markets to artificially lower their rates is that such lenders will soon disappear. Then the people who use their services to help make ends meet, instead of having a short term loan at a high interest rate, will have their car repossessed or their electricity cut off or be evicted from their homes. Thomas Sowell goes into this in more detail in an excellent article called “Predatory Journalism on Payday Loans and Price Controls.” Sowell says in part:

…demagoguery against “predatory” lending might well be called predatory journalism — taking advantage of other people’s ignorance of economics to score ideological points and promote still more expansion of government powers that limit the options of poor people especially, who have few options already.

It’s easy to demand that the government force businesses to assume additional risk in order to satisfy your sense of social justice. But, if you really believe payday loans are too expensive, start or invest in a company that provides such loans at 6% per annum. If that’s a workable business model, the meanies charging too much will soon be out of business through the invisible hand of the market rather than the iron fist of government.

Leviticus 18 and Homosexual Practice

Leviticus 18 and Homosexual PracticeOne of the many passages in scripture dealing with sexual immorality is Leviticus 18. In this chapter, we have direct quotes from God on the subject as spoken to Moses. This is a mark of Leviticus in general. Throughout the book passage after passage begins “The LORD said to Moses…” For this and other reasons I believe Leviticus 18 is the strongest passage in the Bible that addresses the morality of homosexual practice – even though only one verse in the chapter mentions it.

The majority of the chapter is devoted to inappropriate heterosexual relationships.

Verse 6 says: “No one is to approach a close relative to have sexual relations. I am the LORD.” Then, from verse 7 through 18, what is meant by “close relative” is fleshed out. Verses 19-20 highlight two additional circumstances where heterosexual sex is forbidden for the people of Israel.

Then in verse 22 we read: “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.”

This one and only mention of homosexual behavior in an extended discussion of sexual immorality is significant. Up to this point, male / female intercourse is presented as the standard, otherwise why list exceptions? God is saying, do not practice male / female intercourse in these particular ways (the implication being, there are other, non-forbidden ways to engage in heterosexual sex). Notice also that a male audience is assumed for all the exceptions. Do not have sex with your sister, aunt, sister-in-law, etc. Notably, nowhere is sex with a brother, uncle or brother-in-law forbidden. Why? Because homosexual activity is sinful per se. There is no need to list exceptions because there are none. Verse 22 is a universal condemnation of all homosexual practice.

“Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.” Full stop. The biblical prohibition against homosexual practice is not just with regard to temple prostitution or non-committed relationships as is sometimes alleged. It is something God forbids in all circumstances.