Surely by the time Elijah wandered off into the desert to die, he would have been a hard guy to discourage. He had stood up to some of the most memorable (and pathetic) murderers in the Bible, survived a long famine, and sacrificed alone as a servant of God vying against Baal’s priests. Throughout his life, God had vindicated his faith and kept him safe.
But in the little speech Elijah prepared for God to tell him why he had gone off alone and prayed to die, he reveals something: he doesn’t want to be the only one obeying God. “I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” Elijah was using his exaggerated spiritual isolation as an excuse to quit. Someone else in his place might have said, “Less than one percent of the people of God worship you exclusively!”
He might have been exceptional in almost every way, but Elijah wasn’t the only faithful believer in Israel, and he wasn’t the last faithful believer to demonstrate an irrational response to statistics. We’re all more likely to act faithfully when we think we’re in the moral majority rather than in a moral minority.
If you’ve heard a call to moral reform, you’ve likely heard a statistic that goes with it. Half of Christian marriages end in divorce! (Debunked here and discussed here.) The vast majority of single evangelical Christians are sexually active! (Corrected here, and apologized for here.) Less than a quarter of families in churches tithe! Most Americans can’t name half of the Ten Commandments!
Imagine that you’re a Christian, frustrated with your low salary, but a faithful tither. How would you react if you heard that 75 percent of your congregation ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 63+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more