“We are not old men. We are not worried about petty morals.”
With that statement, Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones popularized the idea that morality is optional.
OK, I don’t need to lay all the blame on Keith Richards. Morals were already loosening in the 60s, but when he was put on trial on June 29, 1967, he became the face for the changing morality.
Keith Richards’ home had earlier been part of a drug raid. Drugs were found, but very little. What captured everyone’s attention, though, was the presence of a young woman wearing nothing more than a bearskin rug. Richards was charged with letting his home be used for the purpose of smoking marijuana. Part of the prosecution’s case was that the illegal marijuana made this woman totally uninhibited and unashamed.
The Queen’s Counsel Malcolm Morris: “Would you agree in the ordinary course of events you would expect a young woman to be embarrassed if she had nothing on but a rug in the presence of eight men, two of whom were hangers-on and the third a Moroccan servant?”
Richards: “Not at all”
Morris: “You regard that, do you, as quite normal?”
Richards: “We are not old men. We are not worried about petty morals.”
Keith Richards was sentenced to one year in prison, but only served one day. He was granted bail pending his appeal, and the case was thrown out because of the prejudicial way the case was handled.
Today Keith Richard’s view of morality is commonplace. When he said it 51 years ago, the news outlets and popular culture took notice, but his attitude was nothing new. His attitude was as old as sin itself. Our human nature does not want to be bothered by things like morals. We want to be free, to do what we want to do. Left to ourselves, we will take the road of sin.
At different times in our history, that sentiment has been squelched by laws, the church, and/or a fear of losing work or being ostracized. At other times—like our current era—morals are still considered important but not required. You have morals? Good for you, but don’t force your views on the rest of us.
There was a time when the moral failings of a musician or film star were kept out of the public eye. Now we revel in it. In some cases, it even enhances their celebrity status. And JFK would have never been elected president had his extramarital affairs been public.
Are celebrities and those in the public eye more immoral today than they were previously? I can’t answer that, but our culture’s acceptance of their behavior has made it easy for the rest of us to bend the rules on our own morality—or ignore morality altogether.
Yet God’s standard has not changed.
And let’s remember why God gave us that standard. God is not wanting to simply keep us in line or throw a wet blanket on anything we might think is fun. Quite the opposite. God’s standards are for our benefit. You want to enjoy life? Really enjoy life? Follow me in these things and you will find joy beyond anything you can ask or imagine.
“Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:3-4).
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).
“But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do” (Jas. 1:25).
My sin nature still rears its head, and it presents some pretty persuasive arguments for following the advice of Keith Richards about “petty morals.” In those moments, I have to remind myself of all I have in Christ. Those morals are not petty at all; in fact, they are a source of great joy. Those morals are grounded in the character of Christ.
Petty morals may be the view of the Rolling Stones, but I prefer the view from the steadfast Rock.
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