Summary: God doesn’t merely want to meet our expectations, God wants to raise our standards.
The Gold Standard
I want to apologize if what I’m about to share is repetitious. I think my opening illustration was shared with me by our friend and Chairman of Deacons, Robert Johnson, a few months ago, but I’m not positive. Anyway, in 1900, a company called the Detroit Automobile Company failed. Its investors still believed in the concept and tried again in 1901. This time, they hired the former chief mechanic of the company to run it and said mechanic, in all humility (cough, cough) renamed the company as The Henry Ford Company. Ironically, though this was the Henry Ford who later became famous, this was not the beginning of the Ford Motor Company. The Henry Ford Company failed because Ford himself left it, saying that the investors only cared about profit and not long-range success. Of course, the investors claimed that all Ford wanted to build was race cars.
In 1902, the same investors tried to salvage what they had left by reforming a new company with Henry Leland and dubbed it the Cadillac Motor Company after the founder of Detroit (whose last name, of course, was Cadillac). Leland was a precision machinist who had already helped the Olds Gasoline Engine Works to exceed the performance of an engine designed by the Dodge Brothers (and if you hear the early origins of both Oldsmobile and the Dodge, you’re quite alert today). Leland had not only worked as a machinist for the Colt Firearms Factory, but he had also worked for Brown and Sharpe, the first company to produce handheld precision micrometers.
So, it is no wonder that Cadillac quickly developed the reputation as one of the smoothest running cars (precision motors and transmissions running much more efficiently than the ones found in other cars of the era), but Leland was able to standardize Cadillac parts to precision standards. The development of these standards had such a profound impact that a member of the British Parliament, a wealthy lord named Sir Thomas Dewar, gave the company an award for standardization of parts. Having completely interchangeable parts revolutionized the industry. You could depend on Cadillac more than any other automobile of its time. This is where Cadillac gained its trademark, the Standard of the World.
When I was a child, currency was based on a precious metal standard. It was no longer a gold standard, where each piece of currency was backed by gold. The so-called gold standard had gone the way of William Jennings Bryan’s famous “Cross of Gold” speech and the yellow brick road of Oz (in the book, Dorothy’s slippers were SILVER, not ruby, and that’s because they represented a move to a silver standard). So, when I was a child, we still had Silver Certificates—money backed by silver. Today, we have Federal Reserve Notes—money backed by the mere PROMISES of the U.S. Government—promises that many U.S. politicians claim don’t mean anything when it comes to Social Security.
Today, Cadillac’s standards of excellence have been superseded by manufacturers in other nations and the U.S. would spiral into an impossible depression if we returned to the gold standard. But we still speak of standards of excellence with regard to education and job performance. I’ve called this sermon, “The Gold Standard” because it is a standard that cannot be superseded—a standard that should never cause us difficulty. That is because this standard is not based entirely upon our performance, but mostly upon God’s. In this text, we have someone expecting the standard monetary gift associated with nominal religious practice. As it turns out, what he gets is far beyond the gold standard. The man gets a life he never had. (Read Acts 3:1-16)
So, the first thing I notice is that Peter and John are continuing to be involved with the Jewish faith. Some of us would have said that the Jewish faith was irrelevant, that we were in the post-Jewish era. They could have been just like modern church members who feel like church attendance, Bible Study, and prayer are optional. They give a little money here and there or show up every once in a while and feel like their obligation is taken care of. But Peter and John are heading up temple hill to participate in the third of three daily prayer times. The Jewish day began at 6 AM and the temple was open for prayer at the third hour (9 AM), sixth hour (12 noon), and ninth hour (3 PM).
The second thing I notice is that there was a man who was lame from his mother’s womb. We’re talking about someone who was born deformed and never knew a normal life of running, playing, and wrestling as a child or young man, or even having a career goal like being a priest (like sacrifices, priests couldn’t have a flaw). Fortunately, like the crippled man in the early portion of Christ’s ministry, he seems to have had some friends. The text tells us that they were bringing him to one of the most famous gates at the temple.