Today's Little Lift
by Jim Bullington
Common sense is hard to define. However, we can usually spot it when it is present, and/or when it is not present. A quotation from Horace Greeley says, “Nothing is quite as uncommon as common sense.” Regardless of how uncommon it is, or how difficult it is to define, Jesus appealed to common sense on a number of occasions as a means of proving some very important theological points. Several times He reasoned from the lesser to the greater, a type of common sense logic that is readily accepted by most people (at least those with common sense). Today’s devotional deals with some of His common sense proofs of theological points.
Jesus said, “Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 6.27-30).
Notice carefully the logic that is contained in Jesus’ statement. The first affirmation is this: God cares for the lilies of the field. The second component of the argument is the extent to which God cares for the lilies, i.e. to an even greater degree of splendor than Solomon was able to lavish upon himself. Then we come to the common sense portion of the argument: If God cares for the lilies to this extent, would He not care for us to a much larger degree? Or to state the matter in another way, we might ask, “Is it reasonable to think that God would care more for the lilies than He does for human beings?” The answer to this question might be subject to debate except that God had already declared that man is of more importance than any other element of His earthly creation (see Psalm 8). Given the premise that man is the crowning jewel of God’s earthly creation, common sense demands that He would care for us to a degree greater than the lilies of the field. That is common sense reasoning from the lesser to the greater.
Another example is presented: “And behold, there was a man who had a withered hand. And they asked Him, saying, 'Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?' — that they might accuse Him. Then He said to them, 'What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.' Then He said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand.' And he stretched it out, and it was restored as whole as the other.” (Matthew 12.10-13). Notice how Jesus appealed to the common sense that his hearer's possessed as He posed the question, “Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep?” If His hearers could know the answer to this question, then they should have no difficulty in knowing whether or not it would have been right to heal on the Sabbath. Jesus appealed to common sense and their ability to reason from the lesser to the greater.
While this column is not about biblical interpretation, per se, this is a subject that needs to be touched on from time to time. Some schemes of biblical interpretation are so complex that it takes a person of extremely high intelligence to even understand the scheme, say nothing of the Book they they are intended to unlock. Let it be said once and for all, God is not the author of such schemes. He is the author of common sense and He also is the author of common sense biblical interpretation. When our understanding of the Bible violates common sense, our understanding is a misunderstanding!
1. What does it mean to reason from the lesser to the greater? Can you name some legitimate non-biblical examples of this type of reasoning?
2. From whom did common sense originate? Would He speak to us in ways (through the Bible or in other manners) which violate the principles of common sense?
3. Is the common sense test a legitimate test to use in biblical interpretation? Why or why not?
4. Read Romans 12.3. What does it mean to think soberly?
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