Wednesday, July 6, 2011

From the Inside Out

Have you ever found a chapter in the Word that calls you to stay for awhile? For me, it's Matthew 23 this week. This is a good thing. It means I'm meditating on the Word, chewing on it, digesting it.

In Matthew 23, Jesus is addressing the scribes and the Pharisees. Apparently they hold to the old cliche, "Do as I say, not as I do." Because this is what Jesus tells His followers in verse three. "Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works."

Why? Because when we do the opposite of what we preach, we bind heavy burdens for others, expecting them to work while we sit and do nothing. (See verse 4.) Or, worse yet, we lead others astray with our poor example. I call it a double standard.

If I tell my toddler to clean his room, then sit on his bed and do nothing, expecting him to put things where I want them to go, I'm hindering his learning curve. He isn't going to know how to do the required task without proper instruction. To make matters worse, if the rest of my house looks like the local dumping ground, he's receiving a different message than the one I'm presenting with my lips. My example is going to speak far louder than my words. 

Which brings me to verse 24, which has caught my attention this week. 

"Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!" (Don't you love Jesus' phrases?)

The scribes and Pharisees expected a lot of others (the camel) while giving very little of themselves (the gnat). How many times do we see this same principle in our homes, our communities, our workplaces, and (the worst) the church? 

"Mommy, I want that toy," my child says while at Wal-Mart. "Did you clean your room?" I ask. "No," the child replies with a look of what difference does that make on his face. "Then I'm sorry, but you don't get the toy." The child now assumes the position of temper tantrum.

Annual book sale week arrives at the school. I stand by, awaiting my marching orders. Next to me, two other mothers wait, talking about how Betty Sue received the parent-of-the-year award last year. They complain how they do more work than she does, despite the fact they don't show up every day like she does. They list off every time they've volunteered, which will never match up to Betty Sue's hours.

John received the promotion Bill vied for. Bill's been there ten years, but John's only had his position for four. Bill storms into the boss' office and rudely asks, "Why him?" (As if he's entitled to an explanation.) The boss kindly and patiently replies, "John has brought multiple ideas to the table, allowing for an increase in our business and income. He is always on time, rarely takes time off, and is honest and forward in his communication. You, on the other hand, call in sick at least three times a month, are late meeting deadlines, and rarely communicate with me." Bill storms out of the office like the two-year-old who doesn't get his toy at Wal-Mart.

Janie is placed in leadership at her local church. She's only been a member of the church for five years. Jackie, who's been there far longer, applied for the position as well. The difference between the two women? Jackie's a gossip who stands around after fellowship refusing to lift a finger to help clean up. Janie has served her brothers and sisters in Christ every opportunity she gets. She's at the church each time there's an event, gleaning from the teachings. Jackie shows up when it's a social activity, not when it's Bible study. 

This verse reminds me of those who seek counsel in order to hear how good they are, how right they are, but refuse to heed the counsel they're given. Their life is a mess, and they don't understand how it became that way. But when given advice on how to clean up their mess, they decided it wouldn't work before they ever tried to make it work. Why? Because it's work, and they're too lazy to lift their finger or put their hand to the task. They would prefer the easy way out.

Unfortunately, there is no easy way out of our messes. We must work through our issues in order to overcome the garbage heap we've created. 

Join me again tomorrow to find out what God says to do with our filthy mess...

Photo Courtesy of Pramod K Mahanand

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