Back in the day, airline employees and their families were required to wear “first-class appropriate” attire in order to fly free on an empty seat on the plane. This was an attempt to have non-revenue passengers blend in with those who paid thousands of dollars for their seats, especially in the event that first class seats were open. It made sense for a while….right up until the point that revenue first class passengers began to wear pajama pants with oversized sweatshirts on the plane. It took awhile, but the airlines eventually relaxed their non-rev travel dress requirements. Until that happened, you could instantly spot the airline families…we were the ones who were blatantly over-dressed for the trip.
This policy was taken very seriously when it was in place. Women had to wear panty hose with skirts and dresses, or wear dress pants. Denim of any kind was verboten, and wearing it was a quick way to be denied boarding.
I remember a trip where I had carefully selected a belted shirt-waist dress in a light blue chambray, and wore the required panty hose and dress shoes. The gate agent came over and told me that there was a first class seat open, but he could not seat me there because of my denim dress. I held out my sleeve as proof and explained that chambray was a men’s dress shirt fabric and not denim, but he would not budge. I can promise you that I never traveled in that dress again.
When the standards are high, you need to pay attention and follow the rules.
Psalm 15 is a writing that pulls no punches when it describes the rules and standards for those who will be allowed to live in God’s tent on the holy mountain, or risk being denied boarding. Take a look, but I’ll warn you….it’s a little scary:
Psalm 15 (Common English Bible)
Who can live in your tent, Lord?
Who can dwell on your holy mountain?
2 The person who
lives free of blame,
does what is right,
and speaks the truth sincerely;
3 who does no damage with their talk,
does no harm to a friend,
doesn’t insult a neighbor;
This list of appropriate behaviors is admirable, worthy, and very daunting. It is a reminder to us every day to strive to do better in our actions. We, who are the people of God, should be known in our community as those who adhere to a certain way of life that includes speaking truth sincerely and never hurting our friends and neighbors with our talk. God expects us to do what it right.
4 someone who despises
those who act wickedly,
but who honors those
who honor the Lord;
someone who keeps their promise even when it hurts;
5 someone who doesn’t lend money with interest,
who won’t accept a bribe against any innocent person.
Keeping this list in the forefront of our minds as we begin each day is helpful in remembering what is pleasing to the Lord. If we are faithful to his call to be upright and free from blame, our feet will not stray from his path.
Whoever does these things will never stumble.
It bears mentioning that this psalm is not a prescription for “works righteousness,” where people mistakenly believe that you can earn your way into heaven. No indeed, we can only approach the holy mountain because of the unmerited love of God and the shed blood of the atonement by Jesus. It is only by grace that we are saved, and not by any actions we might do.
So why the list?
To keep you on the straight and narrow so that you remember both God’s standards and God’s promises, and more importantly, so that you won’t stumble on your way up the holy mountain and cause others who are watching you to stumble in their faith as well.
So keep on climbing. Keep on bearing witness to the Good News. Make the changes in your attitudes or actions that this Psalm has brought to your attention. Make sure you are dressing the part of a follower of Christ. Your first-class seat is open….welcome aboard!