“I’m Just Getting Water” and Other Trump Cards to Disobedience

“I’m just getting water.”

This is the trump card excuse one of our children frequently gives us when he wants to delay obedience to a given request. He’s learned, thanks in part to our inconsistency as parents, that we are generally sympathetic to this excuse. It is, after all, water.

Not a donut.

Not a Wii game.

Water. What most of his body is made of, and the one thing that a lack of could cause significant health problems and eventual death.

Yet while it may be an attractive excuse, it’s still an excuse. The kind of obedience we frequently demand in our home is instant obedience.

Slow obedience is no obedience.

Delayed obedience is disobedience.

But still, it’s hard to lead our kids when they play the trump cards they know we’re soft too.

In Luke 9:59-62, Jesus commanded two men to follow Him, and they offered up two “trump card excuses,” neither of which Jesus was soft on.

59 Then He said to another, “Follow Me.”

“Lord,” he said, “first let me go bury my father.”

60 But He told him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and spread the news of the kingdom of God.”

61 Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord, but first let me go and say good-bye to those at my house.”

62 But Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

A long-term relationship with one’s father.

A quick explanation to one’s family about his plans.

All great trump cards to delayed obedience.

All flatly rejected by Jesus Himself.

Apparently, slow obedience is no obedience.

Delayed obedience is disobedience.

Apparently, nothing … not even your own father’s funeral or good communication with my wife and kids … can trump the call of Jesus to follow him.

Why Not Pray Like This?

If Matthew 6:9-13 is our model, what about praying this?

  1. Pray like God loves you.
  2. Pray like God is sovereign.
  3. Pray like God is the most important thing to God.
  4. Pray for God’s will.
  5. Pray like God is in charge of your needs.
  6. Pray like God has dealt with your sin problem.
  7. Pray like God has dealt with the sin problems of others.
  8. Pray like God knows what He’s doing with your life.

“Therefore, you should pray like this: Our Father in heaven, Your name be honored as holy. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

Like a Good Neighbor …

We all have habits, routines or preferences that, when forced or asked to change, really drive us nuts. For example:

  • When someone puts the toilet paper roll so that it comes off over the top instead of from the bottom.
  • When someone leaves the dishes to dry in the sink instead of using a towel and putting them away.
  • When some maniac drives faster than you, or some moron drives slower than you.

Nothing shows our character (or lack thereof) when something or someone unsettles our petty preferences.

The more I study the parables of Jesus, the more I see that one of the purposes of the parables is to unsettle my personal theological preferences.

Take the lawyer’s question to Jesus in Luke 10:29. “If I’m to love my neighbor as myself to inherit eternal life, then who is my neighbor?”

On the surface, this is a decent question, and because we’d expect Jesus to rattle our cage a bit, we’d expect him to tell a story about a Samaritan left half-dead on the side of the road that received an inordinate amount of help from a kind Jew. In this scenario, the Jewish lawyer could feel good about himself while at the same time receive a challenge from Jesus to be a neighbor to his enemy.

But Jesus takes it a step further.

Instead, we get a story about a man with no ethnic identity who is ignored by holy Jews and receives an inordinate amount of assistance from a Samaritan.

The first version actually answers the question, “Who is my neighbor?” Answer: “Even your enemy is your neighbor.”

The second version … the actual text … answers a different question: “Are you a neighbor?” Sure, “Who is my neighbor?” is also answered, but Jesus makes it personal.

He rattles my theological cage.

He moves my theological cheese.

And in so doing, He reveals what’s in my heart.

Am I a good neighbor, much less to my enemies?

Am I willing to take risks and face my fears to be that good neighbor?

Are you?

If You Watch Football with Your Children …

If you watch football with your children, you may have to explain:

  • Who Victoria is and what secret she’s keeping.
  • How to order a pizza while surfing.
  • That Siri and Cortana are not real people.
  • What it means to be arrested for injuring a child.
  • Why robots can’t get in hot tubs and yet like “briefcase tacos.”
  • What a “Utopia” is and why nobody is watching it.
  • Why the commentators only state the obvious.
  • What a “groin injury” is.
  • Why someone would take a picture of themselves naked and show it to someone.
  • Why car leases are not a wise financial decision 99.9% of the time.
  • Why some people think beer makes you attractive and funny.

You Are a Fool if You Don’t Do This One Essential Thing

“Why do you not do what I say?”

This is a common refrain in our home as our boys creep up on the pre-teen years. If I’ve reminded them one time about closing the door, flushing the toilet, hanging their towel, taking off their shoes as they come in the house, and brushing their teeth, I’ve reminded them a thousand times.

“Why do you not do what I say? You’re my son and I’ve told you a thousand times … why do you continually not do what I say?”

I’ve got more than a few options as a parent when it comes to instilling obedience into my children. In the end, I want them to feel the security that obedience brings and the pain that disobedience brings.

So I find it interesting that after the Lukan version of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus asked His disciples the same question we frequently ask our children: “Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and don’t do the things I say?” (Luke 6:46). To help His disciples feel the blessing of obedience and the the pain of disobedience, He shares with them an analogy.

47 I will show you what someone is like who comes to Me, hears My words, and acts on them: 48 He is like a man building a house, who dug deep[h] and laid the foundation on the rock. When the flood came, the river crashed against that house and couldn’t shake it, because it was well built. 49 But the one who hears and does not act is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The river crashed against it, and immediately it collapsed. And the destruction of that house was great!”

If we rightly resist the temptation to allegorize the parable, we see Jesus’ very straightforward message to His disciples: We are fools if we don’t obey Jesus’ teachings. In the same way that a fool builds a house without a foundation that cannot withstand inclement weather, we can agree with Jesus yet not do what He says and pay the price eternally in the final judgment. We are literally fools if we do not DO what He says?

And what does He say we must do? Luke’s version of the Sermon on the Mount answers this question initially. Read it below and ponder: Do I do what He says?

You’d be a fool not to.

27 “But I say to you who listen: Love your enemies, do what is good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If anyone hits you on the cheek, offer the other also. And if anyone takes away your coat, don’t hold back your shirt either. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and from one who takes your things, don’t ask for them back. 31 Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them. 32 If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do what is good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is gracious to the ungrateful and evil. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.

37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you; a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over—will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use,[g] it will be measured back to you.”

39 He also told them a parable: “Can the blind guide the blind? Won’t they both fall into a pit? 40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.

41 “Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but don’t notice the log in your own eye? 42 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself don’t see the log in your eye? Hypocrite! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck in your brother’s eye.



Growling Over Your Bible

Years ago I owned a dog who had a fondness for large bones. Fortunately for him we lived in the forested foothills of Montana. In his forest rambles he often came across a carcass of a white-tailed deer that had been brought down by the coyotes. Later he would show up on our stone, lakeside patio carrying or dragging his trophy, usually a shank or a rib; he was a small dog and the bone was often nearly as large as he was.

Anyone who has owned a dog knows the routine: he would prance and gambol playfully before us with his prize, wagging his tail, proud of his find, courting our approval. And of course, we approved: we lavished praise, telling him what a good dog he was. But after awhile, sated with our applause, he would drag the bone off twenty yards or so to a more private place, usually the shade of a large moss-covered boulder, and go to work on the bone. The social aspects of the bone were behind him; now the pleasure became solitary. He gnawed the bone, turned it over and around, licked it, worried it. Sometimes we could hear a low rumble or growl, what in a cat would be a purr. He was obviously enjoying himself and in no hurry. After a leisurely couple of hours he would bury it and return the next day to take it up again. An average bone lasted about a week.

I always took delight in my dog’s delight, his playful seriousness, his childlike spontaneities now totally absorbed in “the one thing needful.” But imagine my further delight in coming upon a phrase one day while reading Isaiah in which I found the poet-prophet observing something similar to what I enjoyed so much in my dog, except that his animal was a lion instead of a dog: “As a lion or a young lion growls over his prey … ” (Isa. 31:4). “Growls” is the word that caught my attention and brought me that little “pop” of delight. What my dog did over his precious bone, making those low throaty rumbles of pleasure as he gnawed, enjoyed, and savored his prize, Isaiah’s lion did to his prey. The nugget of my delight was noticing the Hebrew word here translated as “growl” (hagah) but usually translated as “meditate,” as in the Psalm 1 phrase describing the blessed man or woman whose “delight is in the law of the LORD,” on which “he meditates day and night” (v. 2). Or in Psalm 63: “When I think of thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the watches of the night” (v 6). But Isaiah uses this word to refer to a lion growling over his prey the way my dog worried a bone.

Eugene Peterson, Eat This Book, p. 1-3.