This morning my son and I were planting trees again. The first part of the process was to dig eighteen holes, and pour a bucket of water into each hole. So right after breakfast we got a wagon, filled two five-gallon buckets of water, added a spade, and headed for the field where we're planting.
While I dug the holes, my son scooped water and poured it into holes so there would be plenty of moisture in the soil when we planted the trees. The temperature was already on the rise, and I was dripping with sweat, so I wasn't in a good mood to argue with my son when he told me, "Daddy, I don't want to do this. The grass is wet, and it's getting my feet wet."
"Well, it needs to get done," I said.
"Why do we have to do it now, when the grass is so wet?"
And here's where I was tempted to use that famous line, "Because I said so." It's quick and easy to say, and doesn't even interrupt the work I was doing. After a moment's thought, though, I put the shovel down and said, "Do you know why the grass is wet here?"
"Because of the dew?"
"Mmm hmm. Come here," I said, as I walked up the hill, and out of the shade. "The grass isn't wet here. That's because it's not in the shade, and it is really hot here, isn't it?"
Then I pointed back down the hill at the tree holes, which were all in the shade. "If we wait for the grass to dry off, then all of that will be in the sunlight, and it'll be hot, and that'll make the work twice as hard."
Armed with that understanding, he agreed that it was better to do it now.
Don't get me wrong, I think that there are times that "because I said so" is a legitimate answer; I do think that children should be taught and trained that obedience is important even when they don't understand the reason for it. But I also think it makes sense, in most cases, to explain my reasoning to my children when I'm able to do so.
This is a very common pattern in scripture, and if you look for it, you'll find it everywhere. God gives an instruction, and then he explains the reason for it.
Every time you find a "for" or a "therefore" or a "because" in scripture, think about it carefully. It's likely that you'll find that God is explaining himself and his instructions to his children.
To illustrate this, I randomly opened my Bible to Philippians 4, where I read this:
The command is to stand firm, but the word "therefore" precedes the command, which suggests that in the previous verses Paul explained the reason for the command:
Why stand firm? Because we have a citizenship and a glory ahead of us that outweighs any burden or struggle that faces us now.
I encourage you to read scripture looking for these kinds of pairings, and express your gratitude to God that he didn't just say, "Because I said so," but took the time to explain his commands. And, of course, always be ready to obey, out of trust and submission, whenever an explanation is not given.
Suppose you were at a store, and as you were getting ready to make your purchase, you realized that you didn't quite have enough money to cover the purchase. What would you do?
Go home and get more money? How about walking up to the person behind the counter and asking "Can I borrow some money from the store so I can make my purchase? I'll pay you back the next time I'm here..."
Well, that actually happened to me today. Fortunately, it was at a place of business I go to quite frequently, so the people there know me really well. Fortunately, I was only short by 25 cents. Did they loan me a quarter? Yep. They sure did.
Now, in general, I wouldn't hold out much hope of getting loans that way, and in most stores I wouldn't even think about asking to borrow a quarter. What made the difference here?
Two things. First, as I said, the people there know me. They know that if I say I am going to do something, I will. They trust me. And secondly, their trust wasn't really going to cost them very much. If I didn't pay them back, they would only have lost 25 cents.
The book of Proverbs says (Proverbs 3:5) Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Trusting God means having confidence in Him, that what He says, He will do. Trusting God implies that we believe in His integrity.
But trusting Him with all our heart goes a step further. Trusting Him with all my heart implies that I would trust Him no matter what the cost, or the risk.
Imagine I had walked into that same store and said, "Can I borrow two thousand dollars? I'll pay you back the next time I'm in." Do you think they would have agreed as readily?
No! Because the cost (risk) of their trust would be much higher. They would have to know me far better than they do to be sure I could be trusted with two thousand dollars!
But trusting God with all my heart means that I no longer count the cost -- no matter how big or small the issue, I can count on God to fulfill His promises.
Well, now I need to go pay back a quarter!
In the 1600s (aproximately 1688) Christopher Wren, a well-known architect, was commissioned by the Windsor town councillors to build the Windsor Guildhall -- a picture of which is shown below.
As you can see from the picture, the ground floor of this building is completely open, with the main part of the building being supported by eighteen pillars around the edge. This open space was designed to be used as a public market.
When the town councillors saw what Wren intended to do, they (in their infinite architectural wisdom) protested to the great architect that his design would never work. Eighteen pillars would not be enough to support the weight of the building, and the whole thing would collapse.
Christopher Wren insisted that his design was solid and safe, and an argument ensued. The upshot of it all was, Christopher Wren agreed to add four more columns into his design. These four columns were interior columns, and can be seen in the picture below.
But Christopher Wren had the last laugh; when he designed the four inner pillars, he deliberately designed them to be two inches too short; the tops of the columns do not even touch the beams of the ceiling. They bear no weight at all!
Over the centuries, many people have had a good laugh at Christopher Wren's subtle jab at the town councillors (although today, if you visited the guildhall you would discover that at some point wooden shims have been placed above the pillars, so they really do bear weight.)
But Christopher Wren obviously knew what he was doing; for centuries this building stood strong and tall without those center columns supporting any weight.
The book of I Peter describes the church as a building -- not made of stone, but of living stone. We, as Christians, make up the structure of the church.
Just as people rejected and disbelieved Christopher Wren's architectural plans, mankind has rejected the foundation (Jesus Christ) upon which God is building His church. But our foundation is a foundation which will never disappoint, and the structure built on that foundation will never collapse.
But God is not like Christopher Wren; unlike Wren, God has not put any "useless" columns in His church. The book of Ephesians tells us that we are all being fitted together. There are no useless or unimportant parts in God's building. We each have a part to play, a work to do, a section of the building to support. And when we choose not to do our part, the whole building suffers.
If we refuse to bear the weight given to us, the building will not collapse, but another -- stronger -- part of the building will have to carry the burdens we refuse to bear. In other words, our choice to not do our part in God's work is a choice to place a heavier burden on the back of another part of the church.