When our motive for doing anything because it is cool by the world standards, perhaps the case could be made that we are bowing to man-made idols. When God goes to such great lengths to pull his people out of their heathen culture in order to make them into his own holy nation, a people that stand out in the world as distinctly belonging to him and disinctly different than the world, why would they then revert back to worldly ways? Why walk as close to the edge of worldliness without stepping over into it instead of pressing into the core of holiness unto the Lord. Why not press into the center of God’s will, which looks more like Jesus and less like the world?
Going Deep // Focus: Deuteronomy 14:1-2 (Living Bible)
Since you are the people of God, never cut yourselves as the heathen do when they worship their idols nor shave the front halves of your heads for funerals. You belong exclusively to the Lord your God, and he has chosen you to be his own possession, more so than any other nation on the face of the earth.
To be forthcoming, I have never had neither purple hair nor a Mohawk. I don’t have any piercings. And I have never seriously entertained the notion of a tattoo—although if I were ever brave enough to get one, I would consider the iconic “Mother” tat embedded within a sailor’s anchor. (You probably have to be of a certain age to appreciate that!)
I don’t have any of those, and don’t really want to, but just to be clear, neither do I have anything per se against quirky hair, body piercings and tattoos that rival Michelangelo’s work. Some people can pull it off; I would look like a doofus. I know plenty of amazing people who have some or all of the above, whose Christian character and kingdom impact is without question.
So what’s the point? I simply want to get you to think about the verses I selected where God prohibits the Israelites from either getting a body piercing or their hair cut in some kind of weird style. Similarly in Leviticus 19:28, God told his people never to get tattoos or engage in cutting: ‘You shall not cut yourselves nor put tattoo marks upon yourselves in connection with funeral rites; I am the Lord.” Now it would be fair protest that this prohibition is only in the context of funerals, but I believe the clear sense here is that if God didn’t like it under those circumstances, he probably didn’t approve of it under normal conditions. You can disagree with me on that, but that is how I see it.
Obviously, many believers don’t see it as I do. In today’s world, a growing number them do all of the above—attention getting hairdos, very obvious tattoos, cutting and more piecings that you can shake a stick at. But I don’t think that is the main point here; it is not so much the activity that we should focus on, it is the motive: “As the heathen do.”
When our motive for doing anything is because it is cool by the world standards, perhaps the case could be made that we are bowing to man-made idols. When God went to such great lengths to pull his people out of their heathen culture in order to make them into his own holy nation, a people that would stand out in the world as distinctly belonging to him and distinctly different than the world, why would they then revert back to worldly ways? Why would they take on patterns and behaviors of the sin-filled culture from which they had been rescued? Why would they admire the latest style or trend or hip factor from the nations that were hostile to God? Why go along to get along? Why walk as close to the edge of worldliness without stepping over into it instead of pressing into the core of holiness unto the Lord.
That, I believe, is the main thing here—what we ought to consider as we seek a relevant application from this passage. Why live on the edge of sin? Why not press into the center of God’s will? Now let me also quickly add that if you are a believer who already has one of the things mentioned above, don’t sweat it. God starts with where you are and then moves you down the road to Christlikeness. Just make sure in the journey forward from today your motive is to be more and more like Jesus.
Now for old school Christians who tend to look in disdain on a younger generation that expresses itself with piercings, tattoos and purply-spiked hair, how about what we do to keep up with the Joneses? What about needing to drive the latest car we can’t afford or having more square footage in our house than a Roman legion required or getting the latest $800 iPhone when the one we have is barely six months old? Do we do exactly what we accuse the young and restless of doing? Is there really all that much difference?
Again, my point in this devotional take on Deuteronomy 14 is simply to get us to consider where we may be flirting with culture rather than striving for greater Christlikeness. The next time you see someone sporting some sort of body art that you don’t appreciate, take a good, long look at your own motives. Perhaps in that moment the Holy Spirit is calling you to a closer walk with Jesus.
That is God’s goal for you, by the way: that you would look more and more like Jesus while looking less and less like the world.