Vol.XIV No.IX Pg.4
November 1977

Reasoning From The Norm

Robert F. Turner

We are a people vitally concerned with what is "average." We are faced almost constantly with a barrage of statistical information. We are told whether we are acceptable by where we are in regard to the extremes. It is desirable to be neither too far right nor too far left.

But let me ask a question: Did you ever see the "average" person? What did he look like? Did he have half way between black and blond hair; not too tall, but not too short and not a lightweight nor too heavy; about medium complexion; not too out spoken, but certainly not timid; not wealthy, but not poor either; and a highly educated person, but not too highly?

It bothers me that many brethren are overly impressed with what is the average in religious matters today. They have developed the rather handy philosophy of reasoning from the norm. I say it is handy because it gives a person interested in excusing his own lack of participation a tool with which to do so. When the time comes to account either to himself or to others for his action (or, likely, the LACK of it!), he reasons that he is just "average," after all.

Reasoning from the norm is as old as time itself. It is a method of excusing ones conduct based on what others are doing or not doing. A brother looks around him and sees two extremes: the people who are zealously engaged in their various assignments and those who are doing next to nothing. He then takes the average between the two and that becomes his standard for measuring faithfulness. Mr. Average member becomes very proficient at the use of his newly developed method. For instance, when it comes to how much time he spends in service to God, he merely averages the amount of time spent by the entire church and finds that he is doing about as much as anybody else in that area. He does the same with the teaching he needs to do, with the amount of money he should give, and since he falls into the category of the "average" he pronounces himself faithful.

Every man is responsible, not for what is the norm, but for what HE can do. No two people will have the same abilities; no two people will have the same amount of opportunities. So no two people, no matter how you average it out, will have precisely the same responsibilities. In Matt. 25, the Lord shows that every man has a specific trust, his own special responsibility. If he is a man capable of handling five measures of silver, he will be held responsible for five. If he can handle only two, his obligation will be in accordance with his ability. But, notice that a judgment is pronounced on him who had ability which he did not use!

In 2 Cor. 10:12, Paul warns us against averaging. He states plainly that if we use ourselves as the standard, no one is wrong and everyone is right! How sad to see people of fine ability do nothing for the cause of our Lord because they haven't the foresight to see that more is required of them than is required of the average member. The Bible teaches us what is RIGHT, not what is AVERAGE! — Dee Bowman