Sunday, December 11, 2011

It's Up to Me? (Luke 10:25-37)

One of the overlooked stories in the tale of the Exodus from Egypt is a little family incident that happened while the Israelites wandered in the wilderness. Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, pays a visit and finds Moses seated and hearing disputes. Jethro asks what he's doing, and Moses explains he hears disputes between the people and lets them know what God's statutes say.

"What you are doing is not good," Jethro says, and I leave it up to those with fathers-in-law to decide how much the Bible edited his actual comment. "You will wear yourself out, and the people too." He suggests creating a system of judges for the unimportant cases so that only the biggest deals get brought to Moses as well as teaching the people what God's statutes are so they can decide for themselves sometimes.

There were a lot of upsides to Moses' system. It was consistent: Only one judge, so no different interpretations of the law. It had a single standard. Moses also had authority. As the recognized leader of the people, he had been in charge when they left Egypt and had been seen to be chosen by God for the work. People trusted his judgments would be fair and represent God's direction, so they would abide by them. But there was also a downside: It wouldn't work. There was no way one person could judge every dispute among a group of people this size. Once Moses spent all his time deciding cases, he couldn't lead the people, and the people waiting to have their cases heard couldn't work while they waited.

One of the reasons our modern lives have so much hurry in them is how many times we say "Yes" to things and squeeze our schedules even tighter to give them all space. We might say that if we just said "Yes" to the important things we could ease things up, but the truth is a lot of us already only say "Yes" to the good and important things. We don't really waste time -- because to be honest, we don't have any time to waste in between all of the good and important things we have scheduled. That may make us feel a little better but it doesn't ease things up when it comes to hurrying.

The church can be one of the worst offenders in asking for our time, because most of the things we're asked to or that we volunteer to do are good things and things that need doing. So we don't really lay anything down that we're doing already but just add something new, and get ourselves crammed up.

Which means that when the time comes that we have something we might want to do or need to do, something that's an emergency, we don't have the time for it. The story of the Good Samaritan can be seen that way, if you want to look at it in that light. Jesus doesn't tell us why the priest and the Levite pass by the injured man, but I heard a sermon once that suggested we could think of our own reasons if we like and one of those might be that the two men were just too busy. They were on their way to important appointments and they didn't have the time to waste on an injured man -- who, after all, might have been a lure to get them robbed or who might have been trying some kind of scam or whatnot.

No one is really too busy to help someone injured like that, but it's easy if we've fallen into the hurrying mindset to talk ourselves into the belief that we are. And even if we wouldn't pass by such a great need, always being in a hurry means we might very well pass by one not so obvious but just as important.

The issue is not whether we say "Yes" to everything -- we will say "No" to some things no matter what. The issue is whether or not we will say "No" of our own choosing or because our schedules force us to, and whether or not we will say "Yes" to so much we don't do anything very well.

We may believe we need to do those things to feel good, or that if we don't do them then no one will and they won't get done. Moses probably had some of those same feelings, and I won't speak for whatever you do outside of your church arena, but inside the church I can say that if it's something no one wants to do, then it's something that doesn't need doing. If I become convinced that it would all fall apart without me, then that may be a sign that it's time for it to fall apart.

Because in the end we need to remember what Jethro also told Moses, which was that if God was with him, then the system he set up would work. Because God is at the root of what he was supposed to do and what we are supposed to be doing, and if we rely upon ourselves instead of God, then "what [we] are doing is not good."

No comments: