Thursday, May 28, 2009

Obeying God in the “small matters”

In the parable of the Ten Minas (Luke 19:11-27), a man of noble birth gave a mina (i.e., money) to ten servants with instructions to “Put this money to work until I come back.” Upon his return the first servant said, “Sir, your mina has earned ten more,” to which the master replied, “Well done, my good servant! Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.”

Are you trustworthy in the small matters? We all like to think we are good people. After all, most of us have not murdered, raped or robbed someone. So we hold ourselves to that standard and believe that we are living up to God’s expectations. Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort (in their ministry “The Way of the Master”) do a pretty good job of illustrating the fallacy of this belief. They ask people, “Have you ever told a lie?” “Have you ever stolen something, no matter how small (even a paper clip from the office)?” “Have you ever used God’s name as a curse word?” “Have you ever looked at another person with lust?” Most people will admit to having done all four of these at some point during their life. These are all part of the Ten Commandments just like “Thou shalt not murder,” but we tend to overlook them as “small matters.”

Allow me to give another example. Romans 13:1-2 says, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established … Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted.” Do you submit to the governing authorities? Even in the “small matters”? Again, most of us have not committed a murder. We haven’t embezzled funds from our employer. We haven’t spent time in jail so we think that we are submitting to the authorities. But are you really? Have you ever been pulled over for speeding? How did you react? Did you try to talk your way out of it even though you knew you were in the wrong? If the officer decided not to give you a ticket, did you brag to your friends about how you put on the “pouty” face and it worked so that you got off with only a warning, as if this “accomplishment” was something to be proud of?

As Christians, we have all come to terms with the simple truth that we have violated God’s law and we deserve punishment. But for some reason many of us have trouble carrying this over to the civil law, even though Paul explicitly told us to submit to the governing authorities. If you have done something wrong, the appropriate response is to own up to it and accept your punishment, not to try to get out of it, however tempting that may be.

How fast do you drive? Do you obey the speed limit or convince yourself, “They won’t pull me over if I’m only doing 5 mph over, so I guess that’s okay”? I recently came to terms with my own hypocrisy (if we are honest with ourselves we are all hypocrites in one way or another) in that I was preaching submission to the governing authorities but routinely traveling 5, 10 or even 15 mph over the speed limit. I now try to travel the speed limit wherever I go, and let me tell you it has been an eye-opening experience.

First, it was a disappointing surprise to see how many cars with the “Christian fish” logo on the back went flying by me like they were in a NASCAR race. But it also has served as a powerful lesson in temptation. Even though I drive in the right lane with plenty of room to pass me on the left, I still find myself feeling guilty when a car pulls up behind me and has to slow down. I find myself worrying about what other people are thinking of me, or the curse words that are flying out of their mouths because I am “holding them up” (for the incredible inconvenience of having to wait perhaps 10 or 15 seconds for an opening so they can change lanes). A semi-truck may pull up behind me. Due to its sheer size it has a harder time changing lanes and often tailgates me right behind my bumper. Sometimes I wonder if I should speed up to make these peoples’ lives easier. But then I remember that I am the one obeying the law, they are the ones defying it, and I leave my cruise control right where it is.

Obeying God’s Word is not always easy, even in the little things. It is amazing how even in the small day to day activities of our lives, modern culture can be steering us away from God. I have made a commitment to try to follow Christ’s examples even in the “small matters.” Will you join me? Your driving is an easy place to start. Make a pledge to start obeying the speed limit then see where the Holy Spirit guides you from there. God bless you all.

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