A Thought on the General Duty Clause

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’  But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.  Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court.  And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

  • Matthew 5:21-22

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.  This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.  There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.  God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith.  He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished — he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

  • Romans 3:21-26

What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter?  If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God.  What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation.  However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.

  • Romans 4:1-5

The OSH Act (Occupational Safety and Health Act, in the United States) was signed into law by Richard M. Nixon on 29 December 1970.  It was a bland, dull period for news during the latter half of December that year.  Thus, the OSH Act was the big thing.  The only other news was obscure stories of people that we will probably never remember today.  Like the week before when Elvis invited himself into the White House and volunteered to join the fight against drugs.  No one would have ever known except for the picture that was taken with President Nixon.  And the day after the OSH Act was signed, Paul McCartney signed a lawsuit dissolving some obscure musical group, the Beatles.  As you can see.  The only important, and yes, even mildly interesting thing, that happened was the OSH Act being signed.

And why was it so monumental?  Because it was a major feat of politics to get the act written and passing the congressional vote to get it to Richard Nixon for him to sign.

It was such a herculean task that someone had the foresight to add a clause to the standard.  It was called the “General Duty Clause,” and it basically said that if something looked like it was not safe, then it probably was not safe.  It would be next to impossible to think of every unsafe act or unsafe condition, and they almost did not win the battle to get this law passed in the first place.  If further changes to the nation’s safety rules were the only law changes for Congress, it would be a fulltime job keeping up with it, and who knows how many people might die while the politicians trudged through their bureaucracy?  Then when a chemical that is not on anyone’s radar is discovered as being a deadly chemical, causing cancer or instant death if inhaled, the general duty clause could be used until Congress could get caught up on the new discovery.

It is like the difference in following a bunch of rules versus having a great safety attitude and lifestyle, as if you had a fond relationship with the concept of being safe.

All this came to mind when I was asked to do a little safety consultation recently.  I have no idea if the consultation will turn into a little billable work, but I loved doing it.

In a way, Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount are along the same vein.  The commandment talks of not murdering people, but the “general duty clause” version states to not get angry at your siblings and absolutely do not call the guy who cuts you off in traffic a “fool.”

Then the other Scriptures from Romans talk about the fact that we have all sinned, and that the only path forward is by faith in Jesus.

It is like God has control of the deck of cards and when someone who is among the elect has accepted Jesus as His Savior, God places the Ace in the trump suit on the next play of the cards to win the game.  It is God’s justice.  We may deserve deadly punishment, but God chooses a different path for us.

The General Duty Clause in God’s Law is that if it looks like it might violate the slightest little stroke of a pen in the Bible, then it is sin.  But the corollary is also true.  God is not as much interested in a bunch of rule followers as He is having a relationship with those people who love Him.  And if that relationship is based solely on faith and a true, pure relationship with Jesus, then we are His and no one can change that.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

2 Comments

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  1. “God is not as much interested in a bunch of rule followers as He is having a relationship with those people who love Him. And if that relationship is based solely on faith and a true, pure relationship with Jesus, then we are His and no one can change that.” — Love this!

    Liked by 1 person

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