I woke up this morning thinking about all the instructions Jesus gives us. I thought about how I at times pick and choose what is important and what isn’t. How is it we can be so combative on certain theological views and at the same time glance over direct instructions?
The Sermon on the Mount and Jesus’ response to the Pharisees in Matthew 15 come to mind concerning this issue. In Matthew 15, Jesus’ disciples are ridiculed by the Pharisees for not performing the ceremonial hand washing. Jesus in turn points out that the Pharisees are not honouring their parents, one of the 10 commandments.
I think we often skip over the commandments given and get caught up with cultural practices and heady theology. There are so many directives in the New Testament, both in the teachings of Jesus, and in the letters sent to the early church. I fall victim to glancing over these at times and going straight to deep theology. This is not ok!
These directives are given by the one we call Lord! That means we must obey. There is no picking and choosing what instructions to follow. We are to hear (or read) and obey. There are many deep truths in scripture to be discovered and ways in which we need to understand in greater depths. These are not the directives of which I speak.I am talking about all those do’s and don’ts. We shouldn’t deliberate these things. There is no room for debate.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells the listeners not to store up riches on earth where they fade away, but to store up riches in heaven where they are forever. So often we take away the underlying truth in this statement but do not adhere to the directive. We instead read “this earth is not forever, so be sure to prepare for life after death.” It even goes on to say that you can’t serve both God and money.
But there is a directive and not just a theological point here. “Don’t lay up for yourselves treasure on earth…lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven.” This is so easy for us to miss. It might be partially because it is in written form. We are so used to treating things that are written as an academic pursuit rather than a place to receive instructions. We try and figure out deep meanings at the cost of obedience.
This isn’t a legalism issue. This is about learning the ways of the kingdom. This is about learning to be obedient. Disobedience to directives exposes we serve another master. We should be asking ourselves whether we are walking in obedience to God. Sometimes we should read these directives and hear the conviction of the Holy Spirit saying, “Why do you break God’s command because of your tradition?”
Let’s take storing up treasures on earth as an example. Does the security of finances keep us from the kingdom of God? Is our goal and ambition to be financially secure? Do we dream of our next purchase? Or do we pursue the things that are for eternal rewards, like saving people from certain death (life without Christ) through making disciples?
As I was sharing this revelation with a friend, I realized that written texts (like the bible) are almost exclusively used for academic purposes in most contexts today. We don’t treat it as instructional as it was intended to be. The teachings of Jesus are incredibly practical and instructive. The letters are very corrective and instructional. I am recognizing even when I read the instructions, I am quick to turn to academic pursuit as a natural starting place.
I think we should ask the question when we read scripture, “Is there a call to action in the text?” We should keep pursuing a deeper understanding of the heart of God, and how we can be changed into his likeness. We should keep pursuing the deep knowledge of who we are as children of God and how we are to act as the church. But none of these should be at the cost of obedience to the directives of God. Remember that obedience means reading and doing.