For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them; but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.
I can whip up a pie crust with rote perfection. First comes the flour, salt, and a tablespoon of sugar if necessary. Then I cut in the butter and lard (yes, lard!). Sprinkle with just enough ice-cold water to bring the dough together so it can be rolled into a circle or two. I don’t need a recipe. I’ve been doing this for years and no longer have to think about the process.
Some activities are meant to be performed by rote. Faith is not one of them.
Yet some people practice their faith by going through the motions without much thought. They attend church most Sundays, listen to the sermon, put something in the offering basket—perhaps they even give a full tithe. But their heart isn’t in it. They are merely doing what Christians are expected to do.
I’ve been there. And to be honest, I wasn’t bothered by it.
My life was good. I had a job I loved and was making decent money. Out of guilt, or maybe out of habit, I went to church every Sunday and said my rote prayers every night. I was a good person. For the most part, I adhered to the 10 commandments. Wasn’t that enough?
The simple answer is, “no.”
From the beginning of time, God has called us to remember him, to worship him, and to follow him. Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. (Deuteronomy 8:11) Remembering the Lord properly is not possible, however, if all we’re doing is checking the boxes.
Though I believed in God, I wasn’t living life the way he desired. My attitude toward him was much like that of the Israelites in the 5th century B.C. before Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, destroyed Jerusalem and led the people away in exile. My faith, like theirs, was stagnant. God was undoubtedly pursuing me, but I was paying no attention to him.
“Your people talk about you in their houses and whisper about you at the doors. They say to each other, ‘Come on, let’s go hear the prophet tell us what the Lord is saying!’ So my people come pretending to be sincere and sit before you. They listen to your words, but they have no intention of doing what you say. Their mouths are full of lustful words, and their hearts seek only after money” (Ezekiel 33:30-31).
In the midst of my “good life” my marriage crumbled, and my bank account was depleted. I was not in a good place. Yet somehow, in my pain and anger, I managed to make a life-altering decision that changed everything: I joined an intensive, yearlong Bible study.
Though I had attended church all my life (and I mean ALL MY LIFE), I had never taken steps to go deeper in my understanding of scripture. The experience was eye-opening! The disjointed readings I had heard at mass every Sunday suddenly came to life as I realized that they all fit together into one big story. The more I learned, the more I wanted to know.
I felt like King Josiah who in the eighteenth year of his reign found the lost Book of the Law. When he read it, he was overcome with repentance. Tearing his clothes, he ordered the elders, priests, and prophets of Judah and Jerusalem to assemble for its reading. Together they pledged themselves to the covenant of old. Shrines to foreign gods were destroyed, and their priests were slaughtered. Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with the Law of Moses. (2 Kings 23:25)
How did the previous kings stray so far from the law? And why did the successive kings go back to breaking the covenant? I would venture to say they got complacent, or lazy, and stopped putting in the work.
God wants a relationship with us, and a relationship takes work. It won’t always be easy, but the rewards will be OUTSTANDING! So, I for one press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. (Philippians3:12). I am a work in progress. It has been many years since I gave my life to Christ, but I am still learning and growing into his image, which is something I will not attain this side of heaven.
I no longer consider myself a “pew-warmer” but a disciple. I’ve gone from reading the Bible to teaching it, from saying rote prayers to talking to God throughout the day, from financially supporting the missionary work of others to going on mission trips myself, from ignoring the homeless to meeting with them weekly. Speaking from experience, I can say with confidence that all it takes to move from complacency to action is one step. God will do the rest.
I leave you with these words from the Book of Hebrews: We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. (Hebrews 6:11-12)
THE SONG THAT COMES TO MIND is Called Me Higher by All Sons and Daughters.
Lyrics: “I could just sit, I could just sit and wait for all your goodness. But you have called me higher, you have called me deeper, and I’ll go where you will lead me, Lord.”
P.S. If you are signed up for my online newsletter, I promise to share my pie crust recipe in the next edition!