Thursday, May 5, 2016

Hearing and Doing

Today is, apparently, Soren Kierkegaard's 203rd birthday. (Relevant Magazine told me so.) Perhaps not as quotable as the inestimable C. S. Lewis from a century later, but Kierkegaard has some zingers too.

Here's the one that struck me today:
The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly.
― Provocations: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard

That hits a little close to home. I know I've said things like this before. Perhaps you have too?

I have heard it said that in Scripture, Jesus talks more about money and caring for the poor than any other topic. I know that for me, reading these passages can be a little uncomfortable. How much are we trying to justify our own behavior when we read a verse like Mark 10:21? (Which is found in the middle of the story of Jesus is being questioned by a rich young man...)
Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
I read this passage and immediately start going through mental gymnastics: "Well, Jesus was talking to a particular man about a particular problem. It's clear that this man loved his money more than he loved Jesus, and that's why Jesus told him he had to give it away. I'm sure glad I'm not like that! I mean, c'mon...I'm a Christian educator...and I don't get paid all that much...and I don't have so much stuff here's a completely different situation. Jesus would never say something like that to me. He knows that I love him far more than I love my 'stuff.'"


Or does the teaching here apply to me as well? Maybe I am that swindler and schemer that Kierkegaard was talking about...

The book of James has always challenged me. I often share passages from James with the future teachers I serve; I think he's speaking wisdom for us to consider. James 1 has some important encouragement for us--the sort that I think Kierkegaard is getting at in his admonition:
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 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.
Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
Faithfully following Jesus is more than just hearing what he teaches us. We actually have to do it too. Discipleship is active, after all.

James 1:22 (NIV) - Image by Dave Mulder [CC BY-SA 2.0]

1 comment:

  1. Yes, there's that actually "DOING what Jesus says" thing. He just really wants us to agree with him, right?