Through the grapevine

The friendly little town of Georgetown was just about the nicest sort of place to live. If your habit was to bring a paycheck in to the bank on Monday, then they would cover an accidental overdraft the Friday before, without any charges. This may not be the case presently, but it was true 30 years ago.

The surrounding Illinois countryside was a pastoral picture of green, gently sloping land. Some of the green was made up of corn or soybean fields; others were wild places, filled with the ubiquitous wild grapes that flourish in this area.

The town was small, about four thousand residents. The building lots were small, too. We had no back yard at all, since the space was completely filled with a small garden.

I know what some of you are thinking now; but I assure you that it wasn’t my plant addiction that made the yard seem small. The building lots really were small!

When the city was platted out, the surveyor, Mr. James Haworth, did not own a common and very basic surveyor’s tool — a measuring chain. He instead used a very long length of grapevine, since it was so readily available at the price he could afford. He used the North Star as a compass.

As time went by, a discrepancy was noticed between the measurements that were in the records and the actual lot sizes.

Mr. Haworth then figured out the problem; his grapevine had become shorter as it dried out. He had used the correct measuring tool to measure the vine, but then used that grapevine to measure the whole city.

So Georgetown’s standards were set by a variable standard — a drying and shrinking wild grapevine.

We must be careful not to let the world set our standards. We say that our culture was founded on Judeo-Christian standards, and that may be true. Mr. Haworth used a correct standard of measure for the original green vine he used.

The trouble is, if we don’t use the original standard, we could be measuring wrong. As society measures itself against previous standards, which are set by other standards, such subtle and slow change is likely to happen.

Do we “measure up” to the scriptures as the ultimate standard? Or do we measure ourselves by the standards of the church we attend? What if those standards have become distorted by the passing of time and man’s changes?

If we use the scriptures as a standard, we cannot go wrong. If we use the ideas of popular philosophers, preachers, or celebrities as a standard, we might go wrong. If we use a denomination’s doctrines, no matter how lofty the founder’s intentions, we might be found “falling short,” as the city lots of Georgetown literally fell short.

Much is written in the Bible about using correct weights and measures. It is no accident that this is a recurring theme.

“You shall not have in your house differing measures, a large and a small. You shall have a full and just weight; you shall have a full and just measure, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you” (Deuteronomy 25:14-15, NASB).

The only sure way to be sure our lives measure up to God’s standards is to actually use his standards. He has not left us without direction, but lovingly gave us a tool for measuring, direction, and guidance. That tool is, of course, the Bible.

Certain standards and patterns are articulated in God’s word, but if we don’t use them, we won’t measure up!

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