Well Done > Well Said

A man said to his two sons, “I need you to do a job for me”. One son said “no”, the other son said “yes”—but that’s not how it happened. In fact, the son who said “no” changed his mind and did the job, while the son who said “yes” got involved in something else and never followed through. 

It’s a simple story, told by Jesus in Matthew 21, and the point is clear: making the right noises is good, but doing the right thing is better. It’s a point our human hearts need reminding of, and often. Our world is obsessed with words, impressed by words, drowning in words. As someone who enjoys writing, I take great delight in finding the right phrase and spinning it around until I find just the right way to turn it. But no matter how hard I work at this, I have to admit: it’s always easier to find words for ideas than it is to act on them. It’s easier to write a love song than it is to genuinely give yourself for the good of another person. It’s easier to rail against the proud and greedy than it is to stop being those things myself. It’s easier to say “consistency is key in raising children” than it is to be consistent while raising actual children. In almost every area of life, it’s easier to say the right thing than it is to do the right thing.

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If I’m Proud Of Doing My Duty, I Probably Don’t Do It Enough

I didn’t wash many dishes in our first years of marriage, but I felt quite proud of every one of them. I could scrub one pot in a week and bask in the glory of my goodness. For some reason, my wife didn’t feel the same awe at my occasional fits of kindness. For some reason, I didn’t understand why. 

These days, I do dishes. I don’t keep track of how many, and I no longer feel the same way about them. They need to be done—it’s only fair. Even though I’m doing more, I feel less proud of it. This summer, I read a story by George MacDonald that helped me understand why:

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Obedience Is Better Than Greek

Last week, I spent 28 hours in Bible College lectures on the gospels. We covered a lot of ground, which really means we scratched a lot of surface. The more I learn about the Bible, the more glimpses I see of depths I have yet to explore. With more time, we could have studied the original Greek and picked apart the sentence structure, studied related historical documents and the lives of the writers and the political movements of the Roman Empire and it’s all helpful. 

Knowing the historical details of the relationship between Jews and Samaritans in the first century, and the context of God’s command to “love your neighbour as yourself” in Leviticus, certainly does enhance my understanding of Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan. But I don’t have to know all those things to the get the point of the story. In fact, if I really want to know what Jesus was talking about, there’s a better way to find out: 

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