Thursday, May 26, 2011

Jerry Clower's Rule of Thumb

I know many of you are familiar with Jerry Clower, but for the sake of those who may not be, let me briefly tell you about him. Before his death several years ago, Jerry Clower was best known as a southern comedian. He is well known for telling funny stories about 'coon hunting, bird dogs, life on a farm and other aspects that were common to his life growing up in Mississippi. What many people don't know about Jerry is that he was also a devout Christian, and I have talked to some who knew Jerry personally who told me that he was a genuinely Christlike person who had a true walk with the Lord. I have always admired him for his humor, but over the past couple of years, I have come to really respect Jerry for his faith and Christian perspective.

I recently heard a talk he gave to a group of people some years ago explaining some important principles to consider when making decisions. He shared that he had often been asked in his travels how to tell the difference between right and wrong. As a response he put together what he called his "rule of thumb" that will help people decide between right and wrong when making tough decisions. There are four principles that make up this rule of thumb, and it would do us all good to bear these in mind. The first principle in Jerry's rule of thumb is: do you need someone to make you feel better about what you're deciding to do? He shared a story about himself as a young man getting ready for a date. He walked out of his room and asked him mom if his shirt was dirty, and his mom offered a very appropriate piece of advice in return. She said "Son, if you have to ask, then it's dirty."

There is a lot of wisdom in that statement. The second principle is do you have to argue with yourself about doing what you have decided to do? The third principle is very similar: do you feel uneasy doing it? As Christians, our spirits are in constant communication with the Holy Spirit. He speaks to us very frequently, but rarely does it shake the chandelier. I know in my personal experience, there have been many times I wanted to do something, but it just didn't sit right with me. Deep inside the voice of the Lord was saying that it was wrong, but I really wanted to do it. I would ask around for advice and wait for someone to tell me that it was OK. Just like Mr. Clower, I was wearing a dirty shirt and I wanted mamma to tell me that it was OK. If we know in our heart that something is not right, and we have to ask someone else about it just to make ourselves feel better, we're wearing a dirty shirt and we need to take it off and put on a different one.

When we feel uneasy about something, many times that is the Lord letting us know that it is not something He has for us. That sounds simple enough, but how many times do we ignore His promptings and do it anyway? How many times do we really know better, so we keep quiet about what we are doing? If we have to keep something secret, it is most likely something we should not be doing. If we have to keep a certain relationship secret, it is probably not a healthy relationship to have. If we don't want anyone to find out what we have hidden under the bed, then we shouldn't have it. The enemy hides in darkness, but the Lord dwells in light. If we are having to hide something, chances are it is more in line with the enemy's plans for us than the Lord's. Let's be sure to walk in the light.

The final principle in Jerry Clower's rule of thumb is the Bible tells us to give thanks in all things, so if you cannot genuinely be thankful to the Lord for providing this thing for you to do, you probably should not be doing it. The Bible verse Mr. Clower was probably talking about is I Thessalonians 5:18, which says:

In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

The Lord wants us to be thankful in every situation. This isn't always easy, and it probably doesn't come naturally for most of us. There are some situations where the Lord puts us and we really wish we were not there. These are times when we have to choose to be thankful trusting that He is working everything for our good. Then there are situations that we get ourselves into, and because deep inside we know better, we cannot honestly be thankful to the Lord in the midst of it and fully commit ourselves to it. If that is the case, we are doing something we should probably not be doing.

To summarize Jerry Clower's rule of thumb, let me leave you with Jerry's own words. This is a brief transcript of him recounting a talk he gave a group college students several years ago:

What is right or wrong? Do you ask other people? Do you argue with yourself? Do you feel uneasy when you do it? Can you give thanks and say "Lord, I thank you for providing this for me?" If you can't, you better watch out - you're fixing to mess up!

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