I understand there are lazy people out there who need to get radical for Jesus. I understand that many people are stingy with their resources and fritter their time away on inane television shows. I understand there are lots of Christians in our churches sitting around doing nothing who need to be challenged not to waste their life. I am deeply thankful for preachers and writers who challenge us to risk everything and make our lives count. I know a lot of sleepy Christians in need of a wake-up call.
But I also know people like me, people who easily feel a sense of responsibility, people who easily feel bad for not doing more. For all sorts of reasons—pride, diligence, personality—opportunities have often felt like obligations to me.
And surely I’m not the only one. Surely there are many Christians who are terribly busy because they sincerely want to be obedient to God. We hear sermons that convict us for not praying more. We read books that convince us to do more for global hunger. We talk to friends who inspire us to give more and read more and witness more. The needs seem so urgent. The workers seem so few. If we don’t do something, who will? We want to be involved. We want to make a difference. We want to do what’s expected of us. But there just doesn’t seem to be the time.
Thing One and Thing Two (and Thing Three and Thing Four . . .)
The Bible is a big book, and there’s a lot in there. So the Bible says a lot about the poor, about marriage, about prayer, about evangelism, about missions, about justice; it says a lot about a lot. Almost any Christian can make a case that their thing should be the main thing or at least one of the most important things. It’s easy for preachers and leaders, or just plain old Christian friends, to pound away at “more”—we should pray more, give more, show hospitality more, share our faith more, read our Bibles more, volunteer more. Maybe it’s because I’m type A or left-brained or a beaver or an ESTJ or a good pastor or a people-pleasing sinner, but I feel these “more” imperatives poignantly. That’s why the “do not” commands are like a breath of fresh air. “Do not commit murder”—that’s tough if you take the heart level seriously (see Matthew 5:21–26). But I don’t have to put the sixth commandment on my to-do list. It doesn’t require me to start a nonprofit or spend another evening away from my family. I just (just!) need to put to death the deeds of the flesh, die to myself, and live to Christ.