Double Standards

Mike Gifford

            A standard is a gauge that men and women use to measure a variety of life’s facets. We have standards of living, standards of conduct, standards of dress. Everyone has a personal set of standards. Even the most despicable of criminals has standards. He or she might not feel any compunction about committing crimes against others, but his or her standards declare that it is wrong for anyone to commit crimes against them.


Just as each of us sets standards for ourselves, we also set standards for others. It’s true! Did you or did you not have a set of standards in mind when you were searching for a mate? (He/she must be a faithful Christian, kind, humble, etc.). Did you or did you not have some standards in mind when you were looking for a neighborhood into which to move? (The people must be friendly, quiet and respectful of their property as well as the property of others.) Do you or do you not have a set of standards set up when you choose friends? Yes, yes and yes. This is not wrong. The error enters when you erect a higher set of standards for others than you do for yourself. In other words, you expect your spouse to be a faithful Christian, kind and humble but you don’t try to be these things. You expect your neighbors to be friendly, quiet and respectful of property but you are not. You expect your friends to conduct themselves in a certain manner but you refuse to follow suit. This is called a double standard and it involves a person expecting more of others than of himself or herself. From a Biblical standpoint, there is not a single thing right about a double standard!

The apostle Paul addressed this in the second chapter of Romans. Romans 2:1 reads, “Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.” Later in the chapter we find this discussion continued. “Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? Thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, doest thou commit adultery? Thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege?” (Romans 2:21-22). It is the height of inconsistency and hypocrisy for a Christian to demand obedience of others while excusing himself or herself from that same walk of faithful adherence to the Word of God. Jesus rebuked the scribes and Pharisees of His day when He said, “For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on mens shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.” (Matthew 23:4).

There are many roads of the sinfulness of a double standard that we could travel but I’d like to choose just one for our consideration. Why are there some Christians who expect more of leaders in the church than they do of themselves? There are those who claim to be Christians yet who engage in worldliness. They dress immodestly, use unholy language, partake of evil vices and purposely absent themselves from worship and Bible classes. How would these same people react if the elders of the church stood around talking after worship and began cursing at each other? “Shocking!” “Appalling!” “Let’s boot them out as elders!” What if the deacons called up one Sunday morning, Sunday evening or Wednesday night and said, “We won’t be there today. We have visiting relatives (or a golf game, or whatever) so we’re going to miss assembling with the church”? What would be the reaction? How about if the preacher or his wife or his children brazenly paraded around town in immodest clothing? He would be fired immediately. If it’s wrong for these Christians to act this way, why is it not wrong for other Christians to act this way? Why should any Christian expect more of another Christian than of himself or herself? Why should elders, deacons and preachers be held to a more exacting standard of conduct?

God has one set of standards (Romans 2:6,11,16). He expects all Christians to be shining examples (Matthew 5:16). You and I have a choice. We can either lower our standards for leaders in the church and be unconcerned about the way they conduct themselves or we can expect the same from ourselves as we expect from them and change our ways. We cannot really do the former because God has set the standard for Christian conduct and it cannot be changed. However, we can and should do the latter.