Can Opinions be Wrong?

During my second year of marriage I cut my hand while during the dishes. I was not paying attention at my task, because I was angry at my wife. She disagreed with one of my opinions and I was quietly stewed while I was doing the dishes. The gash from the kitchen knife was right on my knuckle and required me to go to the emergency room for stiches. Instead of being humble enough to admit that not everyone had to agree with my opinions, I was angry that my beloved wife had the audacity to consider one of my opinions wrong. I no longer remember which opinion she disagreed with, but I do remember learning the painful importance of the pride in my heart and my need for humility.

            As I was sitting in the emergency room at George Washington hospital, I remember thinking how foolish I was to think that only my opinions mattered. When I went back to get stitched up, I struck up a conversation about God with my nurse. She told me that she did not like to talk about issues of faith, because she believed it was a personal matter. Yet the interesting thing was after she made the disclaimer that faith was personal, she started to talk about her own views of faith. Her faith could not have been characterized by any one recognizable faith, but rather it was the common view of spirituality where it was impossible to disagree. Her faith was her opinion and therefore she believed no one had a right to challenger her.

            Many individuals hold a view of personal faith which they believe can never be challenged. They say, “It’s just my opinion.” Personal autonomy is the idol of our age.  In a January 2, 2012 article Mike Gershon says,

"Everyone is entitled to their opinion" – a refrain commonly heard in our society. We value free speech and the rights of the individual. The private preferences we keep, as long as they do not interfere with the rights and freedoms of others, are ours to do with as we wish. Children learn this central tenet early on and soon become adept at deploying it to suit their own purposes. The phrase "well it's just my opinion" can act as a get-out clause which avoids further questioning or the need to give an explanation. A student, when faced with the prospect of concerted thinking, may well prefer to put up a brick wall and so dodge the difficult task of providing a justification for their perspective. They know the sacred position freedom of speech holds for all of us; they know how to confound a questioner by calling this keystone to their defense; and they know the taboo around challenging the opinions of others when they do not impact adversely on anyone else.[i]

People no longer are thoughtful or consider the various arguments related to an issue, but simply have to spout, “It’s just my opinion,” for no politically correct sane 21st century mind would dare say their opinion was wrong.

            Can opinions be wrong? Does the simple fact that individuals can make statements mean that they are true? Another possible way to formulate the question is to say, “Is there truth?” If opinions can be wrong, they must be wrong based on what is right. In an effort to accept everyone’s opinion, we have lost the ability to articulate the justification for our opinions. On April 8th, 1966, Time Magazine ran the iconic cover, “Is God Dead?” The cover sent shockwaves throughout the nation because at the time 97% of Americans believed in God. The cover proved to be prophetic as America has arrived in secular “Godless” age. On April 3rd, 2017, Time reprised their iconic cover with the words, “Is Truth Dead?” Many scholars say we live in a post-truth era following the postmodern age fueled by a secular academic elite. Postmodernism is a movement that intellectually presented the argument that either objective truth does not exist or that it is unknowable[1]. After questioning objective truth for years, modern scholars are becoming honest that a world without truth is impossible. By asking the question, “Is truth dead?” they are admitting the very importance of truth. People may state, “It’s just my opinion,” implying no one has the right to judge their views, but truth is not dead and the God of truth will judge every opinion of man.

We will answer this question regarding truth through the last book in the Old Testament, the prophet of Malachi. Malachi prophesied after the return from Babylon and after the temple had been completed under the preaching of Haggai and Zechariah. Several years following Zechariah, the devotion to God started to wane so God spoke to His people through Malachi, which simply means “messenger.” God spoke through Malachi to show the people that their opinions were wrong. They were not living in truth. God helped expose and correct the people’s wrong opinions about the world. I pray that as we study God’s Word spoken through Malachi, our wrong opinions would be exposed and corrected.

 

A Wrong Opinion of God

Malachi begins his prophecy exposing the false truth that the people had about God. Malachi 1:2-5,

“I have loved you,” says the LORD. But you say, “How have you loved us?” “Is not Esau Jacob's brother?” declares the LORD. “Yet I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.” If Edom says, “We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins,” the LORD of hosts says, “They may build, but I will tear down, and they will be called ‘the wicked country,’ and ‘the people with whom the LORD is angry forever.’” Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, “Great is the LORD beyond the border of Israel!”

The people did not see the Lord’s love for them. The Lord declared that He has loved them, but they are saying, “How have you loved us?” The Lord uses questions like these to show how their opinions were wrong and oblivious they were to the truth. Just because the people were saying that the Lord had not demonstrated His love, did not make their words true. The Lord clearly had loved them, but tells them that in the future they shall see with their own eyes and say, “Great is the Lord beyond the border of Israel!”

            The Bible believes in truth. God is the arbiter of what is true and what is false. One’s opinion of God is only true if it is proven in God’s Word. As Israel was corrected with a false view of God, we also should help challenge people to justify their opinions. As much as we hate to admit it, human beings are not the center of the universe. There is only One who is always true. Romans 3:4,

Let God be true though everyone were a liar, as it is written, “That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.”

God is right and will be justified with His words. A wrong opinion of God will lead people to wrong opinions of a host of other issues.

 

A Wrong Opinion of Worship

As the nation did not understand God’s gracious and merciful love, they did not value the appropriate worship of God. God cares how his people approach him. The people were bringing sick and lame animals for the sacrifices. Instead of bringing their best animals, pure and unblemished, they were bringing the leftovers to God’s House. Malachi 1:6-8,

“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the LORD's table may be despised. When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the LORD of hosts. (Malachi 1:6-8)

No one would enter the president’s house with a half-eaten snickers bar as a gift. When one enters a house of an honored and respected leader, one brings their best. The people were not bringing their best, showing their lack of honor and respect for God. They effort in worship revealed that they did not value Him. 

            We do not have to worry about bringing God our best animals for the sacrifice, but we should still be bringing God our best. We should make God and God’s people our number one priority. It is amazing how easy it is to make an excuse to miss the gathering of the saints. On a recent Sunday at the church I was speaking with a young man’s mother about the church. And his mother was talking about an upcoming trip that should require an overnight visit, but the young man said that he was not planning on spending the night so that he would not miss being with his church. It did my heart good to see the sacrifice a young man was willing to make to bring God his best.

In my time at my church, I have seen countless examples of extreme sacrifice not to miss the gathering of the Lord. There will always be those who are quick to miss, but I pray that we would be like those who make God and the gathering of God’s people the number one priority in our life. Do not have the wrong opinion about worship. Bring God the best for His Name is Great, Malachi 1:11;14

For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the LORD of hosts…Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the LORD of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations.

The Lord is not pleased with those who make great vows with little sacrifice. The Lord is the great King and deserves nothing, but the best. Are you giving God and his people your best? Now take a moment and ask, “Would God agree with that opinion?”

            Our worship of God is revealed in how we love and serve the saints. Do we love one another? Malachi asks, in 2:10, “Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us?” The one God created everyone and became the one Father of all therefore, Malachi asks, “Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers?” The people did not apply their theology of God to the community. The vertical relationship with God should always affect the horizontal relationship with people. What would our care for each other reveal about our relationship with God?

            Beloved, your sacrifice and love for one another shines a spotlight on God’s goodness. We do not love each other so we will be seen as loving, but we love because God first loved us. Our love magnifies his love. John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Let us magnify God’s love to the world by loving one another.

 

A Wrong Opinion of the Clergy     

The Lord established the tribe of Levi to bring true instruction to the people regarding God’s law so that they would stand in fear and reverence before the Lord. God sent His condemnation on the clergy for they were not doing as they ought. Malachi 2:7-9,

For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts. But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the LORD of hosts, and so I make you despised and abased before all the people, inasmuch as you do not keep my ways but show partiality in your instruction.”

The priests were not standing strong before the Lord, but started to shift to give the people instruction that corrupted God’s Word.

            Let me encourage you always to pray for your pastor to stand boldly behind God’s Word. And one of the best ways you can encourage boldness in the Word ministry is to humbly receive his counsel. If pastors consistently face criticism, they will be tempted to bend the Word to meet people’s desires. Paul warns Timothy,

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

People need the pure word of God, but they often desire teachers who suit their own passions. I try to make the main message of the text, the main message of the sermon. And it is interesting because I can almost pinpoint which people are going to respond favorably to the message based on the text that is preached. It is not that they do not want to endure sound teaching, but that they love when their passions are addressed. Pray for your pastor to cherish and love God’s Word more than the praise of men. Discover your passions and make sure they do not lead you away from the truth.

 

A Wrong Opinion of Giving

The Lord does not only address the leaders of the people, but He addresses the people themselves. They were not faithful to the Lord in their giving,

“For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. (Malachi 3:6-10)

It is a very interesting way to look at giving. If you do not give what God asks of you, you are stealing from Him. And in not giving, you are showing you do not trust God to provide for you. You cannot serve both God and Money.

            Do you have the wrong opinion of your money? Do you view your money as yours or as God’s? Are you giving what God requires? Do you trust God’s provision? Do you trust God’s Word that it is more blessed to give than to receive? If we have the wrong opinion about money, we may be thieves. Not many people would break into someone’s house to take their things, but in withholding your money you are entering God’s house as a thief.

 

A Wrong Opinion of Marriage

Malachi continues to display how the people are living with the wrong opinions. He then attacks their handling of their marriages, Malachi 2:14b-16,

The LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”

Godly offspring is a direct result of a godly marriage. The people were not guarding their spouses in faithfulness and thus they were not protecting their legacy with godliness. Marriage is very important in the eyes of God. Even Jesus say,

But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Mark 10:6-9)

There is nothing new under the sun. Marriage is important. Do you have the right or the wrong opinions on marriage? Guard yourself in your spirit, so that none of you are faithless towards your spouse.

 

A Wrong Opinion of Justice

People were seeing the wicked prosper and therefore questioned God’s justice. They were lying and giving the wrong opinions of reality. Malachi 2:17,

You have wearied the LORD with your words. But you say, “How have we wearied him?” By saying, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delights in them.” Or by asking, “Where is the God of justice?”

People were seeing the wicked prosper and therefore questioned God’s justice.They were seeing wickedness rewarded and therefore interpreted that God was pleased with their actions. They were wrongly interpreting inaction as no action. The Lord was going to bring his justice, Malachi 3:1-2,

Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap. (Malachi 3:1-2)

God was preparing to bring justice. We can only rightly interpret current events in light of future events promised by God’s Word. God will send his messenger to prepare the way for the Messiah.

            Malachi ends his prophecy with a promise. The great and awesome day of the Lord is going to come, but before it does God is going to give people a chance to return to Him. Malachi 4:5-6,

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” (Malachi 4:5-6)

And with those words the Old Testament ends. The Old Testament does not end in despair, but hope. John the Baptist came to prepare the way for the Messiah calling people to repentance. We know from Jesus that the one who came like Elijah was John the Baptist (Matthew 17:10-12). His ministry was so powerful in turning the hearts of the people back to God that some thought he could have been the Messiah, but, this was the testimony of John when they asked, “Who are you?” John 1:20-30,

He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

(Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing. The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’

John the Baptist came to prepare for the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Jesus Christ who knew no sin came to be sin so we may become the righteousness of God. Malachi shows the people’s sin and deceived hearts. Christ came to give new hearts so that he people would worship him in spirit and in truth. Justice was given in the cross. Sin was paid, now hope is offered.

Jesus would baptize people with the Holy Spirit and fire purifying their desires and giving them a new heart to love God. This new life was only possible after Jesus was first baptized into death. Jesus said, “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!” (Luke 12:50) Jesus was baptized into death buried in the earth, but God raised him from the dead. The lamb of God took the sins of the world on the cross therefore God exalted him the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name. And Jesus sent his Spirit so that his people would live not in word and talk, but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:18)

I love this hopeful end to the Old Testament, but I love even more the words of God telling us the reason for the Messiah to come. Malachi 3:16-18,

Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name. “They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him. (Malachi 3:16-18)

The ones who esteem the name of the Lord and have the right opinion about Him (or who have the truth), God will make them His treasured possession. We shall be His. He will be our God and we will be His people. Do you know the truth? Do you fear the Lord? Do you honor his name? Only those who know the truth and live by the truth will be adopted as his children.

 As the Old Testament closes, the great promise of God continues. Opinions matter. They matter to God and they matter to us. If we have the right opinion about God, we will be one of His treasured possessions. When we stand before God on the great and awesome day of the Lord, “It was just my opinion,” won’t cut it. Opinions can be wrong. Truth is not dead. God’s opinion is the only one that ultimately matters. He has given you His word to correct your false opinions. Jesus Christ died and rose again and promised eternal life to all who would trust in Him. So what is your opinion about Jesus Christ? Ultimately, that opinion is all that matters.

 

[1] http://www.albertmohler.com/2017/03/24/briefing-03-24-17/ accessed 4.8.2017

 

[i] http://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/2012/jan/02/opinion-argument-free-speech accessed 11.3.2014