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The Picket Fence: Measuring Our Service to God

How should we determine our religious practices? Should we compare to what other people do?Religious people often conclude they are pleasing to God by comparing themselves to other people: the religion of their family, past traditions of the church, or a succession of past church leaders. What is the proper way to determine whether our service pleases God?

The Picket Fence

Suppose you plan to make a fence with one hundred pickets. Every picket should be thirty-six inches long. You measure the first picket by a yardstick. Then you measure the second picket by the first picket, the third picket by the second picket, and so forth, till you measure the ninety-ninth picket by the ninety-eighth picket and one hundredth picket by the ninety-ninth picket.

What problems might result? Many people would make a mistake somewhere, and every mistake you make would be repeated in all the following pickets. The problem is you are measuring the pickets by comparing them to other pickets.

2 Corinthians 10:12,18 – For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. … For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends.


Consider examples in which people try to determine their acceptability to God by comparing themselves to other people.

Family religion

Many people follow the religion of their parents or other ancestors. “If it was good enough for them, it is good enough for me.”

Matthew 10:37 – He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.

The problem is this measures our service to God by other people. If they were wrong anywhere but we imitate them, then we will be wrong too.

Church tradition

Many churches follow the practices of the past. They defend their practice because this is what they have always done.

Matthew 15:6,9 – Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. … And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.

Again, the problem is that they are measuring their service to God by the practice of people. If those people were wrong anywhere, those who imitate them will also be wrong.

A history of church organization

Some churches think they are right because they claim they can trace a succession of church leaders into past history, maybe even (so they think) all the way back to the apostles.

Acts 20:29,30 – Paul told the bishops in Ephesus that “savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.”

Again, tracing a history of leaders is measuring our service to God by other people in history. If people went into apostasy anywhere along the line of succession, tracing our history back to them would be tracing ourselves to error, not to the truth.

The Solution

The proper way to measure the fence is to measure each picket by the original standard: the yardstick. This would avoid repeating any mistakes made in any other pickets.

Likewise, the way to be sure our service to God is acceptable is to measure it, not by what other people do, but by what the original standard says: the Scriptures.

2 Corinthians 10:18 – Not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends.

1 Corinthians 4:4 – … He who judges me is the Lord.

John 12:48 – T he word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.

How does your service to God measure by God’s standard? Have you become a follower of Jesus? Are you living faithfully according to His teaching in the gospel?

(c) Copyright David E. Pratte, 2023;

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