Rules, Rules, Rules

The Latest Word from John Ed Mathison

How many rules do we need to function as a society? Are we overdoing it with rules?

In the last ten years there have been 4,428 changes to the Federal tax code. That is more than one per day. Americans spent a total of 7.64 billion hours in 2010 negotiating tax-related paperwork. That is more than twice the working time of all elementary school teachers in the U. S. Do we need that many rules?

Sports are not immune to all these rules. In the spring of this year the NCAA had 131 pages of rule changes that were proposed. One rule change was No. 2011-78. This rule change allows schools to provide student-athletes with cream cheese, butter, peanut butter and jelly to put on their bagels. You see – the bagels are permitted by prior rules, but adding cream cheese is a minor NCAA violation! Too many rules!

John Davis lives in Cleveland, Ohio. While he was driving his car and exiting on a ramp, he saw a man in a wheelchair holding a sign asking for help. He has a brother who is handicapped, so he wanted to give him some money.

John got a few dollar bills and tried to reach out the window and hand them to the man. One of the dollar bills fell to the ground, but the man was able to pick it up.

A few minutes later Davis was pulled over by a police officer. He asked about the problem and the officer said that he had broken the rule of “littering from a motor vehicle.” The offense was listed as “throwing paper out of a window.” “Money to a panhandler.” Davis now faces a $500 fine. Too many rules!

Throughout his ministry Jesus faced criticism about not observing all of the rules of the Pharisees. The Bible makes it clear that nobody can keep all of the rules. There are just too many rules.

Jesus gave two basic rules to live by – love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:36-40)

Since everybody will not follow God’s two rules, we do need some overarching rules to be sure that people are given the opportunities and rights they deserve. But how many rules does that take?

God’s way with His two rules is a whole lot better than our system. I have a hunch His tax rules would be simple and clear – He wouldn’t worry about putting cream cheese on a bagel – and He would certainly advocate giving to the needy, even if you do accidently drop some of the money!

Relationships replace rules. A relationship with God and our brothers and sisters rules out the need for most other rules!

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