One of the first editions of Ruport Murdoch’s new iPad-only newspaper, The Daily, included a story that had all the makings of a great old-fashioned G-Man tale.1 An unmarked truck sneaks out from Pennsylvania before dawn with liquid contraband destined for Manhattan. After arriving, the banned substance is clandestinely slipped into a crowded room of addicts waiting for their once-a-month fix. Images come to mind of Al Capone, Bonnie and Clyde, high speed chases with cars not long past the Model T, Tommy guns, and the FBI kicking over huge vats of illegal liquor.
However, Prohibition ended in 1933, and long ago those famous moonshine runs morphed into NASCAR racing. So, what new liquid has led to such an illicit trade? Perhaps some normal beverage beefed up with a narcotic? A new caffeinated alcohol drink (like Four Loko) that five states outlawed before the FDA finally stepped in to make it illegal for everyone?2 Considering this fluid has caused raids reminiscent of Prohibition it must be pretty addicting and the Devil’s juice.
The Amish smuggler, Samuel, was sneaking in…gasp….
Now, the FDA hasn’t banned that product (yet), but it is verboten in 12 states.3 The Daily’s article notes one guns-drawn police raid at Rawesome Food organic food stores made famous (infamous?) by someone posting the live security video of the incident on YouTube.4 Of course the authorities had their weapons out—you don’t know to what extent someone will go to protect gallons of unprocessed milk! Think of the street value!
As interesting (or aggravating) as news of the nanny (or police?) state is, it doesn’t warrant a church bulletin article. However, this tidbit caught my eye:
Samuel’s smuggling run started in Pennsylvania’s Amish country, where his family farm is located. As Amish doctrine prohibits him from operating an automobile, he paid a non-Amish person to drive.5
Did the second sentence in that paragraph strike you the way it did me? Regardless of whether the Amish farmer is doing something wrong by allowing a bunch of Manhattanites enjoy raw milk or not, what do you think about paying somebody to do something you consider immoral?6 Is that okay? Or is it just as bad as doing it yourself?
Before I answer that, I’d like to look at something unique about the fourth commandment:
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates (Exodus 20:8-10, English Standard Version).
What is distinctive about the fourth (as compared to the other nine) is how in-depth it goes in the scope of who it covers. It not only covers an individual, it covers anyone that person has any control or influence over. Why?
My guess is that nobody would think that the command, "You shall not murder" (Exodus 20:13) could some how be avoided by hiring an assassin (ditto with others like Exodus 20:15’s "You shall not steal"). Additionally, some really can’t be handed off—for example, how exactly would you pay someone to commit adultery for you?
But God knew with the Sabbath it would be easy for His people to rationalize that if they take the day off from work, but have their non-Jewish servants keep the business running, it would be fine. Our Lord wanted to nip that though in the bud. (Sadly, the Israelites still didn’t get the point, and you can see in Nehemiah 13:15-22 how the "nobles of Judah" had to be rebuked for letting people trade on the Sabbath—with Nehemiah going as far as forcing the gates to be shut and threatening "merchants and sellers of all kinds of wares [who] lodged outside Jerusalem once or twice.")
Which brings us back to our milk-smuggling farmer. If he would be as much a murderer to pay someone to pull the trigger (as the one who did the dirty deed), then he is as guilty of driving by hiring someone to do it as if he was pressing the gas pedal himself. Additionally, even though I don’t think using an automobile is sinful, it is for him "for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin" (Romans 14:23b).
Our congregation isn’t very legalistic, so it may be a bit hard to apply this lesson to our lives, but assuming you haven’t been a member of God’s family your entire time on earth, how about these related questions?:
You have an extensive pornography collection and the Lord saves you. Do you give it to some friends who think it is fine or destroy it? (My guess is almost everyone would say, "Destroy it!")
You have an extensive CD collection, but a lot of your songs are filled with foul words or other lyrics that don’t meet the Bible’s command to "test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil" (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22). Do you use the offending discs as frisbees or sell them? (I suspect our congregation would mostly lean toward frisbees.7)
You have ostentatious and/or immodest clothes, expensive diamond and gold jewelry, and snazzy shoes that would make Imelda Marcos jealous. You read Paul’s admonition that…
…likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works (1 Timothy 2:9-10).8
Do you give (or sell) the infringing attire or trash it? (This answer is much less simple, eh?)
All three cases fall within the same basic issue Samuel faced (and failed miserably at). If it is wrong for you to do something, then it is wrong for you to pay someone else to do it or to help enable someone else do it.
To close…the way this article is written it may sound like the answers are black-and-white. I think they are in Samuel’s case and when it comes to pornography. With the rest I suggest we all show each other grace as we struggle to avoid being legalistic while concurrently steering clear of rationalizing our ways (or the ways of others) to hell.
1 Heller, J. (2011, February 3). Amish Smugglers’ Shady Milk Run. The Daily. Retrieved February 14, 2011, from http://www.thedaily.com/page/2011/01/27/020311-news-amish-milk-5/
2 CNN Wire Staff. (2010, November 17). Senator: FDA to ban caffeinated alcohol drinks. CNN. Retrieved February 14, 2011, from http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/11/16/alcohol.caffeine.drinks/index.html and Wood, D. (2010, November 19). Four Loko: Does FDA’s caffeinated alcoholic beverage ban go too far? The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved February 14, 2011, from http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Society/2010/1119/Four-Loko-Does-FDA-s-caffeinated-alcoholic-beverage-ban-go-too-far
3 Heller, J.
4 george4title. (2010, August 2). Police Begin “Guns Drawn” Raids on Organic Food Stores in California. YouTube. Retrieved February 14, 2011, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b27EFldZ17k
5 Heller, J.
6 I realize that Samuel might not actually consider driving sinful and may just be avoiding it to keep from running afoul of religious authorities, but for this article we’ll assume he agrees with the prohibition. It wouldn’t show a positive character trait on his part regardless.
7 Minus the littering aspect. :-)
8 See also 1 Peter 3:3-4.