by David Sisler

If Jesus Christ delays his return to this world long enough for western civilization to collapse, historians may find one of the factors to have been an unreasonable desire to lower our standards so that every one can be a success.

There is nothing wrong with success. There is nothing wrong with striving for success. The danger comes when the desire for success outweighs our desire for achievement.

My wife, Bonnie, has taught high school mathematics for almost 30 years. Recently she said, “Never in my experience as a teacher have I witnessed the desire for a passing grade to totally dominate the classroom.”

She told me about a mother who called, furious that her son, a high school senior, was failing algebra. There is no disgrace in failing algebra. In fact, I took algebra twice in college before I received a passing grade.

The parent, however, totally discounted the fact that her son refused to do his homework, thus denying himself valuable practice with the new material. The boy refused to participate in class discussions – often choosing to nap or work on other assignments. When offered a chance at after school tutoring, the boy declined, citing basketball practice as his reason. And his mother wondered why he was failing!

The mother presented Bonnie with a very simple solution. “Lower your standards,” she said. “Change the passing grade from 60 percent to 50 percent. That way my son can pass.”

When I repeated college algebra, I received the third highest grade in the class. Recounting the story some years later, a friend asked me, “Was it simply the repetition of the material which made the difference?”

“No, not really,” I replied. “The difference was, the second teacher had higher standards. In his class I was challenged to achieve. In the first class I was taught to accept shoddy accomplishments.”

It is easy to assure everyone a passing grade. Just lower the standards so everyone can pass. But as I experienced, with lower standards I worked down to my own incompetence. With higher standards I was forced to reach above myself.

That same principle applies with God.

David was king of Israel during that nation’s golden era. The capital city was even called “Jerusalem, The City of David.” At the height of his career, David lusted for a woman who was not his wife. When she became pregnant with David’s child, he ordered the murder of her husband.

God’s prophet came to David with a hypothetical story about a rich man, with vast flocks, who stole a poor man’s only lamb. The rich man then killed the poor man’s lamb and served it to his dinner guests.

David did not understand that the story was about himself, and he ordered the man killed and his wealth given to the poor man.

At that point, the prophet said, “David, you are that man.”

How would you expect a king to react?

David could have said, “I am king. I am the law. I can do as I please. We will change the law, change the standards, to suit my actions. Therefore, there is no crime.”

No human being would have been able to stop David – he was the king. Who had been able to stop him so far?

Instead, David fell to his knees and cried out, “God, if sacrifices would please you, I would kill every animal in the kingdom as an offering to you. But your standard requires a broken spirit and a heart willing to serve you. I lowered myself to my standards. I will now raise myself to yours. I have been a failure on my own terms. I will risk being a success on yours.”

If the standards are lowered, everyone could pass. But the final grade is given on God’s standards and they have never changed. God’s standard is his only Son.


Copyright 2003 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.

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