Friday, July 18, 2008

Error-Proofing Your Life - II

Keep It Simple

"A child of five could understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five!" (Groucho Marx)

Paul the Apostle must've been a Groucho Groupie: "But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ." (2 Corinthians 11:3) Or was it the other way around? Sometimes I get my chronologies mixed up. Fortunately for me, the Christian life is attainable to a five year-old.

"Seven Steps to…” “Seven Habits of …” “Ten Principles of …” “A Systematic Approach to …” “Thirteen Keys to …” “Twenty-One Surefire Shortcuts to …” Consider this paradoxical book title: The Simplicity Survival Handbook: 32 Ways To Do Less And Accomplish More. Are you kidding me?! I feel like taking a nap!

Complexity is a common characteristic of false teaching; be leery of any teaching or theological framework that complicates the Christian life. The truth of God will astound you, but not because of its erudition or complexity. If you are looking for a theology that will turn you into a sophisticate, then the teachings of Jesus’ will disappoint you. If our theology doesn't work in the barrio, then we, like Mary, need to spend more time at Jesus' feet.

"Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:38-42)

Second only to the authority with which He delivered them, Jesus’ teachings were distinguished by their simplicity. Consider the Savior’s subject matter: birds, bread, candles, farmers, fire, flowers, grain, light, meals, rain, salt, seeds, sheep, shepherds, sowers, virgins, water, weather, weeds, wheat, widows, wind; not very esoteric, but certainly accessible to children and adults possessing childlike faith.

Compiled in one volume, Jesus’ teachings could be titled, “The Complete Idiots Guide to Following Jesus.” Were today’s Christian children’s book publishers unaware that Jesus’ teachings are in the Bible, they might pass over them as too dull for today’s video-game generation. Seminary scholars might grow bored in Professor Jesus’ Systematic Theology class:

"In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight." (Luke 10:21)

Apart from the grace of God, the Christian life would be impossible, but is not “rocket science.” If a 500-page book is needed to validate an idea, it should raise a red flag. Essential truths have been made unmistakably clear in the Scriptures, so clear in fact that it is easier for a “child of 5” to grasp them than for a mind drenched in knowledge. Here are some additional biblical references about simplicity:

"And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified … And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God." (1 Corinthians 2:1-2, 4-5)

"For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power." (1 Corinthians 4:20)

"Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned." (1 Timothy 1:5)

"The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails—given by one Shepherd. Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them. Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body. Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil." (Ecclesiastes 12:11-14)

How can a “brainiac” be content with the childlike “simplicity that is in Christ?” By striving to know the source of all knowledge, God Himself. Jesus said, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." (John 10:27)

Do you love theology, or literally, the “study of God?” Good. Just don’t forget Jesus words, "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me." (John 5:39) Paul wrote, "whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away." (1 Corinthians 13:8) No amount of knowledge can satisfy or thrill the soul like knowing Him, hearing his voice and following Him.

Complexity accompanies pride and leads to unhealthy dependence on the source. When someone begins to complicate the Christian life, steer clear. If you are going to err, err in favor of simplicity.

© 2008 Seeds for Good Soil. (Revised 16 July 2008)

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