Digging Loopholes

For fourteen years our family enjoyed having Spencer as part of our lives. Found by grandma while my daughter of four was staying with her in the country, this puppy was destined to come home with us. He was a small dog mix and there was nothing really spectacular about him except he understood boundaries and borders very well. He was taught early on there were places for him to go and also forbidden zones. For example, at night he stayed in the laundry room. All you had to say when it was time for bed, “Spencer, time to go to your room” and off he went. However, he was not aloud on the furniture and was never once caught breaking that rule. He was never permitted to go into the bathroom. Our bedroom was off limits, but every morning my wife would call him in just to say hello. Yet, as soon as he heard or saw me, he bolted out the room and sat at the threshold.

His obedience proved to be a very helpful. We have two gates to our backyard on either side of the house. I could leave either one or both open and never have to worry about Spencer leaving the yard. Whether I was working on the cars or the lawn, he would just sit and watch me and never step beyond where the gate would have been. Now, if one of the members of the family called him he would immediately bolt out of the backyard. If you did not give him permission, you could not have thrown him out past the gate.

There were only two times Spencer got out the backyard without permission. One day I was coming home at the end of the day. When a neighbor called me over and gave me terrible news, I just could not believe he said he had seen my dog out in another neighbor’s yard. When he called for my dog he got no response. I argued that my dog would never leave the backyard without permission. And besides, both gates were closed. My wife said he was not in the house. So to prove the dog was still in the backyard, I called for him. A moment later he comes running down the sidewalk toward me. Firmly a scolded him for being out of the backyard, gruffly barking, “Who told you, you could leave the backyard?” Opening the gate I demanded, “Now you get in the backyard and stay there… you bad dog!” Spencer did not go through the gate, but went down near a bush beside the fence and crawled through a hole he had dug in order to escape the backyard. Well, technically I was right, Spencer would not leave the yard if the gate was open, but he had found a loop hole in the rules and dug a hole.

Spencer would have made a great Pharisee during the days of Jesus. They were always coming up with loopholes to get around the demands of the Law of Moses. Once they reprimanded Jesus for letting His disciples break the traditions of the elders by eating with unwashed hands. He reminded them that while His disciples may have broken the rules made up by mere men and their traditions, they were breaking the commandments of God.

“Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”— then he need not honor his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ” (Matthew 15:3b-9).

To get out of their God given duty to repay their parents and care for them or respect them with assistance, they came up with man-made traditions. They dug a loophole to get around the Law.

Later, during the last week before His crucifixion Jesus further condemned the loophole diggers for their hypocrisy. While claiming to uphold and obey the Law of Moses, the Pharisees were in fact digging loopholes to get around the commandments. Jesus warned them, “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it.’ Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that sanctifies the gold? And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gift that is on it, he is obliged to perform it.’ Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifies the gift? Therefore he who swears by the altar, swears by it and by all things on it. He who swears by the temple, swears by it and by Him who dwells in it. And he who swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by Him who sits on it” (Matthew 23:16-22).

Notice those who dig loopholes are fools, blind guides as well as hypocrites. Jesus systematically exposes their faulty logic. They were in effect deceiving the people and themselves with these loopholes. Instead of promoting truthfulness they were in fact propagating lies.

To be honest with ourselves, there is quite a few loophole diggers among the brethren. We may not withhold what is due to help our parents because we have given to the Lord, but many Christian do the opposite by not giving back to God (1 Cor. 16:1,2) because they are giving it to their family. Both loopholes are wrong. Others claim to believe and support the commandment of God: “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Heb. 13:4). But in reality they find loopholes around this, because they plan to get married one day. Others will agree that there is only one reason given by Jesus for divorce. “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery” (Matt. 19:9). However, just wait until their married son or daughter experiences marriage problems and out come the shovels as they dig loopholes to help them get around God’s Law of Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage. God commands parents to discipline their children. Yet, many refuse to spank their little rebel because the “experts” claim God’s way will not work. In God’s family, the church, those who refuse to repent are to be disciplined by church withdrawing from them (Matt. 18:10-17; 1 Cor. 5; 2 Thess. 3:6-15). Nevertheless, some find a loophole with the unscriptural logic: “You can’t withdraw from the withdrawn.”

Friends, it is time for us to take the shovel of repentance and fill these loopholes in with respect for the truth. If some Christians would work as hard in obeying God’s commandments as they do in trying to dig these loopholes, there would be a lot less hypocrisy among God’s people.

Well, it is time to get back to Spencer the Pharisee dog. There was one other time he left the open gate without permission. One Saturday morning I was replacing the alternator on my car. The gate was open near by to allow me quick and easy access to the shed in the backyard. Spencer was sitting dutifully at the gate opening. Just then the mailman (or should I say mail female which sounds like a oxymoron) came down the side walk. I looked up and we exchanged greetings. As soon as she put the mail in our box on the front porch, Spencer took off after her like he had a jet engine strapped on his back. He was chasing her and barking as if he was going to take her leg off. Immediately I dropped my tools and took off in hot pursuit. Now the mail lady was a rather large woman and when she ran her wide hips violently jarred the mail sack which in turn catapulted mail into the air. As I ran down the sidewalk yelling at Spencer to stop I started to laugh at the scene. Somehow she made it to the neighbor’s door ahead of the dog and started ringing the door bell and frantically pulling on their door. All the while the dog was barking, mail continued to spill out of the sack and I was still trying to keep from laughing. Having rebuked Spencer and sent to backyard, I began helping her gather up the mail which littered the sidewalk and the neighbor’s front porch. After apologizing I returned to close the gate and check the mail. No wonder Spencer was so irate at her, she delivered four bills and a jury summons. Without sounding too much like a Pharisee, I thought this was one time we could allow a loophole for Spencer.

– Daniel R. Vess

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