Who Writes My ‘To Do’ List?   2 comments

This is not a thought topmost on my mind these days… I wrote it some time back.  But I thought it was worth sharing.

Many conservative Christians direct their lives by a long list of expectations handed down to them from various sources (family, church, tradition, culture, etc.), many of which purport to be fundamentally grounded in Scripture.  I know this is how I spent most of my life, but for me it was the letter that killed the spirit.

I was raised to believe and obey the Bible.  At a foundational level were direct and clear commands that seemed to make a lot of practical sense, saving myself and my relationships much grief: don’t lie, don’t cheat, don’t gossip (or in positive terms, be honest, be fair, be kind in what you say about others).  It doesn’t take much wisdom to understand the importance and relevance of these commands.

But along with these direct commands, I was taught to identify and live by biblical principles.  Here the footing got very unsteady, for who was to say what principles should be applied in this way by this person at this time to this situation?  Let me give one general principle, stewardship, focusing on one of its corollaries, efficiency, limited to one resource at my disposal, money.  The principle is: spend as little money as possible for the greatest good.  The Bible does not say this directly, but we all know this is what it means when it warns us against greed, tells us to be generous instead of self-serving and to be “rich towards God,” etc.  I said “we all know,” but some of us struggle with such a simple reduction of many passages to one principle.  Even if we agree that a given principle is worth following, we still find the devil in the details–a given application of that principle.  Let me list a few quandries:

1) How do the hundreds of other principles laid out by levels of priority interact with this principle, limiting it, redirecting it, even overriding it?  What kind of good should be done (for instance, is it more important to give Bibles or give bread); who will receive this good (for whom am I most responsible); what other resources will be used in the accomplishing of this good (will it be cheap but take “inordinate” time); may I consider my own interests, talents, vision; what positive or negative side effects may come from this expenditure; am I permitted to solicit money or borrow money for this goal; and I could go on for many pages.

Quantity or Quality? Brand or Generic? Organic or Inorganic?

2) How does this principle apply to purchases for myself?  What must I buy cheaply, and what may I take into account in deciding (the more expensive laundry soap that smells better, the fine quality suit, attending an ivy league school over a local state college?); what percentage must I give away (based on income, cost of living, family concerns, etc.); who decides and how does one decide what is lavish, normal, or frugal living; how much latitude (freedom) do I have; do my feelings matter in any way in making a decision.

3) What role do love and grace play?  Using this principle of financial efficiency, the disciples criticized the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume instead of giving to the poor, and they were rebuked.  It would seem the heart of the matter is the heart matters most, more than the behavioral choices we make, and that we need a level of freedom and faith to live out of  grace rather than law.  (I packed way too much into that sentence.)  As Augustine said, “Love God, and do what you want,” or as Paul said, “Love is the fulfilling of the law.”

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Posted April 29, 2012 by janathangrace in thoughts

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2 responses to “Who Writes My ‘To Do’ List?

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  1. When we are told to walk in the spirit………..it boils down to the heart of the matter in each instance before God. I love the quote from Augustine.

    Thanks for posting. I always read your posts and find myself lost in thought for a while afterward.

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