Imagine you’re going away for a couple of weeks and have found a family recommended to house-sit while you’re gone. Being very particular about how things are done, you compile a notebook with guidelines about what to do in your absence.
You provide instructions about bringing in the morning paper; what day the trash is collected; how often to water the plants, feed the fish and walk the dog; where you store the vacuum cleaner; how to shut off your quirky kitchen faucet so it doesn’t leak continually, and other details.
On the day of your departure, the family arrives and you start going over the notes with them page by page. Then the husband, Jason, says, “Hey, don’t worry. We’ve got this. I’m sure your notes tell us everything we need to know. Just relax and enjoy your cruise. Have a great time. We’ll see you when you get back.”
Confident of leaving your home in good hands, you embark on the trip, which exceeds your expectations. Two weeks later, filled with happy memories, you return home and find…the biggest mess you’ve ever seen.
Newspapers, still in protective plastic wrappers, lie strewn across your front yard, yellowing under the sun’s relentless glare. The garbage can remains standing by your back door, but now it’s overflowing with the accumulation of two weeks’ trash.
Warily you enter the house and the first thing you see is fish, floating upside-down, all dead. Then you notice the smell – deposits left by your dog because the house sitters had failed to take her out more than once a day. The plants are all wilted beyond recovery, and the kitchen faucet isn’t just leaking – there’s a steady stream of water into the sink that, because the stopper wasn’t removed, now overflows onto your hardwood floor.
Aghast at the scene, you want to scream, “What the…!” just as your guests enter the room. “Welcome back! Did you have a nice time?” they ask with broad smiles, oblivious to the chaos surrounding them.
“We did – until we got home!” is all you can manage, flustered beyond words. You gather yourself and then ask, “Didn’t you read the notebook? We told you exactly what you needed to do, and you assured us it would tell you everything you needed to know. What happened?”
“Yes, the notebook did tell us everything we need to know,” replies the wife, Ashley. “We read it every night. In fact, you did such a good job – very well written, by the way – we even studied it several mornings as well. You were extremely thorough. You thought of everything. We even told our friends about it!”
How would you respond to that? Besides trying to avoid assault and battery charges?
As strange as that scenario seems, it’s being replicated every day in homes across America and around the world. The best-selling book in the world, the Bible, is read by millions of people daily but, like the away-from-home notebook described above, it’s often either ignored, or used only for information, not for application.
The Scriptures clearly were not intended merely for storing in our intellectual filing cabinets. In Psalm 119:9,11 King David declared, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word…. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” From the Middle Eastern mindset, in which this was written, to believe also requires to act accordingly. There wasn’t room for the believe-but-don’t-do kind of attitude that characterizes much of Western thinking.
And in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, the apostle Paul insisted the teachings of the Bible are more than a compilation of suggestions, or even recommendations: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
Are we like the couple that received instructions on how to be proper caretakers of the home where they were staying, appreciating what is read but failing to act upon it? Or are we following the directive of James 1:22, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says”.
Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, a former newspaper editor and magazine editor. He is presently vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit focused on mentoring and coaching business and professional leaders. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and has authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” “Business at Its Best,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. He also posts regularly on two blogs, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com, and www.bobtamasy.wordpress.com. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.