“Nate, put your toys away,” I said to my almost three year old son. As with most toddlers he didn’t have any problem taking out a toy from his toy box, playing with it for a moment or two, throwing it aside, and pulling another toy out of the top box to repeat the process. In no time at all it would become nearly impossible to navigate through the area. It’s been my observation that children don’t like to put toys away, that’s work, while pulling them out and leaving them all over the place is fun. Yet, even when I made a game out of putting his toys away, he soon figured out it really wasn’t any fun at all to put the toys away – in his mind that was work. So soon, I was saying again, and again, and again, “Nate, put your toys away.” After a few weeks, I repeated the same old phrase, and I was greeted with the following. Picture a cute blond toddler, standing there with his feet firmly planted on the ground, his little hands balled up into fists, with said fists firmly planted on each side of his waste. He looked at me with intensity, and said “You don’t gotta tell me two times!” It was at this point that I had to stifle a chuckle, and tell him that if he had done what he was supposed to do, when he was supposed to do it, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. It would be many, many times over that a similar situation would occur, he would be told to do something, he would not do what he was told, he would be told again, and he would retort, “You don’t gotta tell me two times!”
My instructions to my child were to help him learn responsibility, learn how to be considerate of others, and build healthy work ethic. Even more so, these instructions were done to help understand that these things that I was teaching him, and insisting that he do, would make him a better person. However, he wasn’t buying into my vision.
I venture that many of us will drag our feet when we are prompted to do something that we would prefer we not have to do. And, even though I am a person that has a high drive to get those items checked off of my to-do list, there are times that like Nate, I drag my feet. I know that I need to do something, perhaps I’ve even thought about doing whatever it is that needs to be done, and yet, I don’t do it. I don’t want to do it, even though I know that I should. I want to divert my attention and energy to something else, most likely something that I would enjoy.
Likewise there are messages, instructions, that we will listen to, and other messages, or instructions, that we will ignore, usually based upon how we feel about those messages. We want to hear the nice stuff, the easy stuff, the stuff that affirms us. We don’t want to hear those things that don’t fit within our frame of reference.
We see this played out in the Bible. God has messages for His people, prophets come and proclaim those messages, and they are met with resounding disbelief and even hostility by the audience. That’s because God’s people are being fed messages from false prophets that affirm what they want to hear. You’ll find it throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament alike. Those messages that are preached that do not affirm what the people want are often met with hostility, such as in the case of Paul in Acts 14:1-7, 19-20. Or, those words of Paul in Acts 17:1-8; And, Pauls’s actions in Acts 16:16-24. In the Old Testament we also see hostility to the prophets in Jeremiah 20:1-2, also in 36:5, and 40:1. See Micah 2:6-7, 11. Amos also got his share of persecution in Amos 7:12-16.
That reality is no different for Christians and non-Christians alike. It’s prevalent in today’s society. We don’t want to hear the tough messages, we don’t want to be accountable. We want everything to be tied up neatly in a pretty little box with a great big bow on top.
I think that’s why preachers who teach the prevalent “prosperity gospel” have a large following. We want to hear all the nice, sweet stuff about God, but we don’t want to recognize that God has expectations for us and holds us accountable for our behavior.
But to me, to be a Christian means looking at all of what God’s Word says. It’s in accepting those things that God tells me that I need to do, even those things that I don’t like or that don’t come naturally, and not turning away from His instructions. It’s not saying to God “You don’t gotta tell me two times!” It’s me being open to and encouraging God to tell me as many times as necessary. “Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions.” Psalm 119:18