For Part One, go here. For Part Two, go here.
Tim could have just said, “Be as generous as possible.” That would have covered it. But instead he felt the need to codify generosity – and don’t we all?
(“What?! The Lord wants me to give to the church?! Well, exactly how much does he expect?”)
Our natural instinct is to want to narrowly define all general principles.
Jesus said, “Hey, if you love God and love your neighbor, you don’t need any more rules!”
And we said, “That’s great. Hey, Jesus, got a quick question for ya. Hypothetically, can I love my neighbor and still punch him in the gut every now and then?”
And Jesus said, “Seriously. Don’t punch your neighbor in the gut, even just every now and then.”
“Oh, okay,” we replied. “Can I still poke him in the eye?”
“No, you can’t poke him in the eye. That’s not very loving, is it?”
“Okay, but how about this -- what if we say ‘Nyuck nyuck’ as we poke him in the eye?”
“No eye poking! ‘Nyuck nyuck’ does not make eye poking okay!”
“Oh, I get it,” we say. “So loving our neighbor means don’t punch him in the gut or poke him in the eye.”
“Yes!” says the Lord.
And then one of us whispers to the rest, “Good thing he didn’t say anything about stomping on his feet.”
I’m not saying that we always look to define the rules so we can get around them (although that is an inevitable result). There are a host of reasons that we feel the need to turn a simple rule into a 3,000 page incomprehensible House bill.
For one, we need clarity. (What does that rule really mean?)
And we want to know where we stand. (Am I going to pass the course?)
We want to make sure we aren’t doing it wrong. (Like this, or like this?)
We don’t trust our own ability for self evaluation. (I think I’m loving my neighbor even as I’m poking him in the eyes. Nyuck nyuck.)
We don’t trust our neighbor to evaluate himself. (He keeps poking me in the eye. And laughing. That isn’t very funny.)
So we clarify, and we quantify, and we specify. And then we legalify.
We focus on the specific rules, we pay heed to the letter of the law, and we feel like good little boys and girls because we went a whole week without punching or poking.
And along the way we forgot to love our neighbor.
Same is true with money. More on that next time.
Just my thoughts,