The Problem with Game Show Marriages

The Problem with Game Show Marriages

Exodus 20.14

Dr. Jim Denison

Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire is the talk of America. When Darva Conger married Rick Rockwell on national television three weeks ago, everyone was amazed. When she told him two days later that she didn’t want to be his wife, everyone laughed.

Unfortunately, marriage has become much more like that game show than anything God ever intended.

There are half as many divorces granted in a given year in America as marriages performed. One fourth of our adult population has been divorced. 53% of Americans said on a recent anonymous survey that they would have an affair if given the chance. 92% of sexually active people say they have had ten or more partners in their lives.

Marriage today is a game, played for our amusement, and we think we can change the channel whenever we want.

God knows better. He wants us to be pure and holy. He has given us all we need to defeat the temptations of our culture, and offers us hope even when we fail. Let’s see what he says.

What is adultery?

Martin Luther had picturesque ways of putting things. As relates to our topic today, for instance, he once said, “If your head is made of butter, don’t sit by the fire.” On another occasion he declared, “You cannot prevent the devil from shooting arrows of evil thoughts into your heart; but take care that you do not let such arrows stick and grow there.”

We’re going to use his metaphor for our study this morning. So, our first question: what is adultery? What is this “arrow” the enemy fires at us?

Jewish law defined adultery as voluntary sexual relations between a married person and someone other than the lawful spouse. That much is clear. But there’s more.

Adultery is not the only kind of sexual sin forbidden by God’s word.

Colossians 3.5: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed, which is idolatry.”

1 Corinthians 5.9,11: “I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people. . . . but now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.”

1 Corinthians 6.9-10: “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” Satan has many such arrows.

And Jesus condemns them even further. In the Sermon on the Mount, he articulates the purest standard to be found in all of literature: “I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mt 5.28).

Jesus forbids immoral action, and even immoral thoughts, as arrows from Satan. Why?

Why is adultery wrong?

There are three basic answers to our question. First, sexual immorality destroys the family.

Dr. Frank Pittman, an internationally renowned expert on sexuality and marriage, reported recently in the New York Times that in thirty-seven years of practice as a therapist, he has encountered only two cases of first marriages ending in divorce where adultery was not involved.

Of those who break up their marriages to marry someone else, 80% are sorry later. Only 10% actually marry the person with whom they had an affair. 70% of those who do later get another divorce.

Sexual immorality is an arrow to the heart of your family and home.

Second, sexual impurity destroys our witness. The only credibility for a Christian is his or her character. If that is ruined, our witness and ministry is ruined. And Satan knows this—he is a great economist. If we can get me or you to sin sexually, even one time, he knows that our witness and ministry will be ruined, perhaps forever.

Do you think it’s a coincidence that the great failures among prominent ministers in recent years have been sexual in nature? Aren’t these Satan’s arrows, fired at us all?

Third, sexual impurity destroys our spiritual lives, our souls. Listen to these profound words from Proverbs: “Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife; no one who touches her will go unpunished” (Proverbs 6.27-29). This is an arrow to the soul.

Charles Allen was the longtime pastor of First Methodist Church in Houston. In his book on the ten commandments he quotes a theology professor’s statement, “About 50% of all human misery is caused by a violation of the seventh commandment.” After decades of pastoral ministry, Dr. Allen came to agree. So would I. This is Satan’s sharpest arrow, indeed.

How do we defeat this temptation?

God has given us some shields to use when we’re being attacked. First, agree with God that sexual immorality is wrong.

Refuse to accept the culture of our day, the “sexual revolution” characterized by the slogans, “Just do it” and “If it feels good, do it.” Hollywood is wrong. The advertisers who simply want to make money off us are wrong. Sexual immorality is wrong.

The Cherokee Indians, in their marriage ceremony, would join hands across a running stream to signify that their lives would flow together forever. And “white men” called them primitive! Agree with God that all sexual immorality is wrong.

Second, guard your heart. This is Satan’s target.

Jesus warned us not to “look at a woman lustfully” (Matthew 5:28). The Greek here does not refer to natural, normal human instincts, but to the man who looks at a woman with the deliberate intention of lusting after her. This is not about the first look, but the second.


What’s Your Price?

What’s Your Price?

Exodus 20:15

Dr. Jim Denison

For 28 years Bob Barker has hosted The Price Is Right, the longest-running game show on television. In fact, Mr. Barker has logged more hours on network television than any person in history.

You know how his game works—contestants guess the prices of items displayed on the stage to win. And how those prices have changed.

In America, apparently no price is too high for the things we want.

Who would have dreamed we’d spend $5 for a cup of coffee, or $3 billion on bottled water? But we’re drinking it.

The price of gasoline hasn’t been this high in nine years, and is predicted to rise another 20 to 30 cents soon. But we’re still buying gas.

The most recent Motor Trend displays upcoming car models. Included is a “priced down” Hummer at only $58,000, and a new experimental car for $1.2 million. Someone will buy it.

Against all this materialism, we find the eighth commandment. Two words in Hebrew, four in English: “You shall not steal.” Let’s look at what the commandment means, and how to keep it today.

To help us, we’ll lay alongside this commandment Jesus’ commentary on it—the best-known story in literature, the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

What is stealing?

In Jesus’ story we find the three basic attitudes toward the eighth commandment. The first: “what is yours is mine and I will take it.”

The man in our story is traveling the road from Jerusalem to Jericho when he is attacked by a band of robbers; we’d say he was “mugged.” Jesus says, “They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead” (Luke 10:30). What’s his is theirs, and they will take it.

Most of us know how he felt. 60% of all Americans have been the victim of crime; of those, 58% have been victimized twice or more. Most of us have been down this road. Unfortunately, this happens on many levels today.

First, we steal, of course, when we take the possessions of others.

Our house in Houston was vandalized; a thief broke the window of our van in Atlanta and stole what was inside; our church has lost technical equipment to thieves in recent years. A few months ago, my car wouldn’t start, so I had it towed to a local repair shop. They wanted $2,000 to replace the head gaskets; I took it to the dealership, who fixed the problem for a fraction of that cost and never had to touch the head gaskets. Stealing is taking the possessions of others.

Second, we steal when we take advantage of others.

48% of American workers admit to taking unethical or illegal advantage of their employers in the past year. This includes cheating on an expense account, paying or accepting kickbacks, secretly forging signatures, and breaking legal statutes and codes.

American industry loses $3 billion per year because of employee’s time spent in personal Internet use while at work.

I once knew a staff member in another church who would take friends to lunch; they would pay him, he would put the bill on his credit card, then he would turn in the receipt and get reimbursed by the church.

We steal when we take advantage of the government by cheating on our taxes, money which honest citizens must make up. In short, we steal whenever we take financial advantage of others.

Third, we steal when we take the ideas of others.

When I taught at Southwestern Seminary I heard the motto from students: if you steal from one source, it’s plagiarism; from two sources, it’s research. No, it’s not.

My brother-in-law once worked as a custodian at a church while going through seminary. He cleaned the pastor’s office, and always knew what sermon they’d hear that Sunday from the open book of sermons on his desk on Friday.

Fourth, we steal when we take the reputation of others.

Remember a few years ago when someone accused Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger of sexual abuse? This godly man was completely vindicated, all charged were dropped, and the person making the allegation apologized, but the damage was done to his reputation. That man stole his good name.

Shakespeare said it well: “Who steals my purse steals trash; ’tis something, nothing; ‘Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands. But he that filches from me my good name robs me of that which not enriches him and makes me poor indeed.”

Before you say anything negative about any person, ask yourself first, Is it true? Is it fair? Is it necessary? To take the reputation of others is to steal.

We have the robbers’ philosophy of possessions, “What is yours is mine, and I will take it,” when we steal the possession of others, take advantage of others, or take the ideas or the reputation of others. We’re just like the robbers in the story.

But, the priest and the Levite who came by next stole from the man as well. Their attitude was, “What is mine is mine, and I will keep it.” They stole from this man the care they should have given to him, the compassion they should have shown him. They stole from him as well. Passive theft is still theft.

Let’s return to meddling. God calls us to give him a minimum of ten percent of all our goods and possessions for his purposes. Not just a tenth of our money, but of our time, talents, and abilities as well. When did you last dedicate to God at least 10% of your week?

How does God feel about those who do not obey him in this area? Listen to him: “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house” (Malachi 3:8-10).


Why Lying Is Not a Game

Why Lying Is Not a Game

Exodus 20:16

Dr. Jim Denison

Hollywood Squares was one of television’s longest-running game shows, airing from 1966 to 1989. Now they’ve brought it back, with Whoopi Goldberg in the center square. The format is very simple: celebrities answer questions, and the contestants decide whether they’re lying or telling the truth. It’s a game made out of lying.

No wonder it’s popular in America.

A recent New York Times article reported that 91% of Americans say they regularly don’t tell the truth (did the other 9% lie?). 20% admit they can’t get through a day without conscious, premeditated white lies.

When I worked as a graphic artist during seminary, I had a customer who kept a “lie book” in his pocket. Whenever he told someone a lie he would write it down, so he could remember it the next time he saw that person.

The commentaries claim that this is the commandment of the ten we break most often. Do you agree? Raise your hand if you’ve never lied. Be careful—don’t lie.

The psalmist lamented, “Help, Lord, for the godly are no more; the faithful have vanished from among men. Everyone lies to his neighbor; their flattering lips speak with deception” (Psalm 12:1-2).

What is “false testimony”? Why do we commit this sin? Why is it wrong? What can we do about it? These are our questions today.

What is a “lie”?

We live in a “post-modern” culture, where truth is considered to be subjective and personal. There’s no “right” or “wrong,” just what’s right or wrong for you. No absolutes—which is itself an absolute statement. So, let’s be clear—what is a “lie”?

False words are, of course, lies. We lie when we tell half-truths, when we exaggerate, when we misquote, when we slander others and gossip about them.

False appearances are lies. The psalmist said of his people, “they take delight in lies. With their mouths they bless, but in their hearts they curse” (Psalm 62:4).

Sometimes we gossip in spiritual guise. “Pray for the Does, they’re having marital troubles;” “I’m concerned about the Joneses, their son (or daughter) is really struggling in school.” We pretend to care, which is a lie.

Any time we create a false appearance, we’re lying. I remember an episode in the old M.A.S.H. series, where Hawkeye the doctor strikes out with a new nurse assigned to the unit. The next guy through the door asks her out and she accepts. Hawkeye asks his buddy, “What does he have that I don’t have?” “Sincerity,” they reply. “Sincerity,” he says—“I can fake that.” No, you can’t.

Withholding the truth is a lie. Listen to Leviticus 5:1: “If a person sins because he does not speak up when he hears a public charge to testify regarding something he has seen or learned about, he will be held responsible.” The sin of silence is as real as the sin of speech.

Last, rationalization is a lie. Everyone’s doing it; it won’t hurt anyone; no one will know. It’s just a “white lie.” But “white lies” are an oxymoron.

In a Peanuts cartoon (August 1997), Charlie Brown says to Linus, “We’re supposed to write home to our parents and tell them what a great time we’re having here at camp.” Linus answers, “Even if we’re not? Isn’t that a lie?” Charlie Brown explains, “Well … it’s sort of a white lie.” To which Linus asks, “Lies come in colors?”

No, they do not.

Why do we lie?

Let’s ask our second question: why are such lies and deceit so common?

The first sin in the Bible was telling a lie. In Genesis 3 we read that the crafty serpent asked the woman if she was allowed to eat from any tree in the garden. When she answered, he lied, “You will not surely die” (v. 4). So she ate, and he ate, and eventually they both died. As will we, unless Jesus returns first. The first sin in the Bible is a lie.

The last sinners named in the Bible are also liars. In Revelation 22 Jesus says to John, “Outside [heaven] are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood” (v. 15, emphasis mine).

The psalmist said, “Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward and speak lies” (Psalm 58:3).

Why are lies so common to us?

One answer: we lie to compensate for our own failures.

We have some sense of the way things should be, of life as God intended it. But we know that we are not living this way, that we have sinned, fallen, failed. So, we compensate. We create a false self, an “idealized self,” the person we wish we were. And we spend the rest of our lives trying to live up to this person.

But no one can do it for very long. When we fall short of the perfectionism which drives us, we deceive ourselves and others. We lie.

Cain lied to cover up his murder. David lied about Bathsheba to cover up his sin. Any sin they committed, or you commit, I can commit. There is no sin we cannot commit. If they lied to compensate for their own failures, so can I. So can you.

Another answer: to hurt those who hurt us.

If someone lies to us, we lie to them. To hurt those who hurt us.We lie to get revenge. We repeat half-truths and rumors, we gossip and slander, to hurt people we think we have a right to hurt. After all, they did it to us, right?

Saul was convinced David was a threat to him, so he became a threat to David. He lied about him to his son, his family, his nation. If he lied to hurt his enemy, so can I. So can you.

Still another answer: to get ahead.

We lie to get the account, to close the deal. To impress the girl or the boy. To please our parents. To further our own agenda.Ananias and Sapphira lied about the money they brought to the church, so they could keep some of it for themselves. If they lied to get ahead, so can I. So can you.