Use of the word "should" is most often in the form of advice or a recommendation. It is weaker in form than "must" or "have to."
However, the word has taken on more ominous tones, especially within our Christian circles.
We might preface a statement with "I think," and add "you should...", but the harm is already done.
Regardless of how we cut it, giving an opinion about how one "should" behave or believe is tantamount to judging--especially if that advice or opinion was not asked for.
I am suggesting that you should not use the word "should."
(Hopefully, this will eliminate the e-mails from those who miss the entire point of this article.)
This flies in the face of experience--probably yours, and definitely mine. I have spent the better part of my Christian life letting people know HOW they should behave and believe. Look at the title of this blog--"Practical." I thought I was doing some great service by pointing out what the Bible teaches us about how we should live. I enjoyed the nickname given me as a "shoe-leather preacher."I've quoted the title of Francis Schaeffer's book, "How Should We Then Live?" as a basis for launching into biblical teachings that seem to tell us what to do and not do. One of Schaeffer's quotes could be used against the title of this article: "In passing, we should note this curious mark of our own age: the only absolute allowed is the absolute insistence that there is no absolute."The Lord is now taking me in a new direction, to which I alluded in Where Faith and Reason Meet.
When I'm counselling with those whose life seems to be falling apart, or coaching those who want to get more out of life, I usually hear some rendition of "I know I should..." It is usually in the form of do more, be more, or think less.
Where do we get this sense of "should" or, "ought."?
Is there some command that we feel we are not obeying, or some standard by which we are not living?
People who tell me that are wanting something to change in their life. They don't like where, who, or what they are.
They tend to think that if they could just fulfill that one "should" then everything would be all right.
For instance, let's say they want to lose weight. We begin talking about it. One of the first things that comes out is, "I know I should exercise more."
Sounds good, doesn't it?
Why, then, does it never seem to help?
Because "should" is counterproductive.
If it worked, you would have fixed your problem long ago.
Placing yourself under an obligation of "should" doesn't work for at least two reasons:
- It does not acknowledge what is, but only what could be.
- It becomes a law, which can only cause problems in the first place. (Rom 5:20)
Putting a guilt trip on yourself or someone else that you would like to help will not have the desired results of improvement. It only produces more failure. That's what Paul is trying to get across to us in his letter to the Romans.
In essence, he writes "Quit trying to use any form of law or legal requirement to become righteous. It won't work. It never worked. Use faith instead."
You may ask, "What do you mean, it never worked? Didn't God give us the Ten Commandments?"
God gave us what men have called The Ten Commandments; but they are not commandments at all. They are statements of reality.
In the Septuagint version of the Old Testament, written in Greek in the third century before Christ, the so-called commandments are written in the future tense, active voice, indicative mood.
For those who have forgotten their high-school grammar lessons, I will give the terms as defined on the Blue Letter Bible site.
Future--The future tense corresponds to the English future, and indicates the contemplated or certain occurrence of an event which has not yet occurred.
Active--The active voice represents the subject as the doer or performer of the action. e.g., in the sentence, "The boy hit the ball," the boy performs the action.
Indicative--The indicative mood is a simple statement of fact. If an action really occurs or has occurred or will occur, it will be rendered in the indicative mood.
Let's look at what this means to us.
"Thou shalt not kill" is the King James rendering of Exodus 20:13. Modern language would say "You shall not murder."
The title of the section in most bibles is given as "The Ten Commandments." Those titles are not in the original in any form. They are there simply as a help, a guide; and they are the result of an interpretation outside the inspiration of the Word.
Tradition and Hollywood has this as a big booming voice telling Moses to tell us, "DON'T!"
Taken literally, however, without the embellishments of tradition, fear or anything else, God was actually telling us, "You won't." He was stating a fact of what His creation was to be.
Paul understood this when he wrote 2 Cor. 5:17--Therefore, for any who is in Christ, that one is a new creature. Old things (murdering, lying, stealing) are passed away, dead, gone, buried. New things have come.
Do we really believe what we believe? We say we believe the Scripture. Do we? Or, do we believe someone's teaching about Scripture? Do we water down the Word with our experience?
If 2 Cor. 5:17 were the only part of the Bible someone had in their possession, what would they believe?
Taken by itself, without anything being added or balanced, what can you assume from that verse alone?
Is there enough in that verse alone for one to be saved and live a godly life?
Therefore, if putting myself under obligation of law to stop lying only makes my telling lies worse, wouldn't it be better if I began to say with Scripture, "I am in Christ. Therefore, I speak truth."?
And, instead of telling one I am trying to help, "You shouldn't lie. You should only speak the truth." Would it not be more effective to say, "I really appreciate the way the Spirit of God is working in your life."?
Some wit has said, "They are not called the Ten Suggestions. They are the Ten Commandments." They are neither.
Rather, they are ten of the most powerfully creative statements ever spoken to the awakened spirit of mankind.
Your comments, criticisms, and/or questions are highly valued, and welcomed on this site. Thank you.