Years ago I remember reading a story that went something like this:
The manager of a factory was in need of hiring someone to work the assembly line of his factory. So he put out an ad, collected some applications, and began the interview process. Several people came in to interview for the job. And to each one, the manager explained the work hours, the pay scale, and the benefits of the job. Then he took each one to the assembly line to show them what they would actually be spending their work hours doing, if they were hired. Each person seemed to understand the production line and the job responsibilities, as they were fairly simple.
Each person left the interview with the hope that they would be hired. This process was repeated many times.
Eventually, a certain man came to interview for the job. The manager followed the same process. He explained the work hours, the pay scale, and the benefits. Then he took the man to the assembly line and showed him the assembly process. But this man had a question. “What happens to the part I am making when it leaves here? How does it fit into the final product?”
This man got the job.
He wanted to know the why behind what he was doing.
This man understood that knowing why he was assembling his part of the product would help him complete his task with excellence. Sometimes, it’s not just what we do, but what we know, that makes the difference.
When I became a new believer, I wanted to know how to live life right as a person of faith. I remember looking to other, more mature believers, and to the word of God to see what I needed to do. I wanted to know what to do, and how to do it, as a follower of Jesus. I was not raised with faith, so I was trying to figure it out, trying to do it right. I wanted to be accepted by God. I became very focussed on what I thought God wanted me to DO to be a faithful Christian.
I have learned since then, that when I focus on what God wants me to KNOW, the doing makes more sense.
I lead a Bible Study for women, and in that group we talk a lot about “checking boxes” in our faith life. What is checking boxes?
Checking boxes is when we attempt to do all the “right things”. Such as;
Reading the Bible
Going to church
Saying a prayer
Those are all good things that God values. But are we doing just the minimum? Just checking off a box? Doing the things we ought, because that’s what will give us good standing with God?
Are we reading God’s word quickly and closing the book (or Bible app) so we can get on to “more pressing” things? Or do we reflect on what we’re reading and make adjustments in our character because of the truths we read?
Do we tune out the message during church while the list of tasks we need to complete (before the weekend is completely gone) is running freely through our mind instead? Or are we truly worshiping God while in church?
Do we seek God through prayer by listening to Him, as well as talking? Or are we so busy with the list of things we want Him to fix in our life, (and others lives) that we forget that prayer is a two way conversation?
Are we doing things without knowing why? Are we just checking boxes?
In Matthew chapter nine, Jesus has begun His public ministry. He’s been hard at work healing people, not only physically, but more importantly, spiritually. He’s been delivering people from demons and even working His miracles on the Sabbath, which was prohibited by Jewish Law! (This is where you gasp for air). He then begins to call disciples to come follow Him. (side note; in that culture, individuals would ask to follow a rabbi or teacher, not the other way around). So, when the Pharisees notice that Jesus is eating with tax collectors and sinners (insert another gasp here), they become angry, and confused.
They question the disciples saying “why does your teacher eat with such scum?” This is strong language!
Jesus steps in to answer for Himself. In Matthew 9:12, He says “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” (implying strongly the real issue at hand). Then He goes on to say this in verse 13, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.”
In other words, “I want you to really love me, not just check boxes”.
God wants us to understand that what He really desires, is for us to know Him. He wants us to trust His heart toward us. He desires to show mercy to us, not demand an offer of sacrifice or atonement from us.
God’s heart toward us is always and only ever love. That’s why He sent Jesus.
The Pharisees restricted themselves from things that God never asked of them. And, they added countless other behaviors to their “to do list”, to show everyone how righteous they were. They were essentially offering sacrifices to God, instead of truly loving Him, or others for that matter.
They were checking boxes.
They were trying to do all they could to get God to love them.
When all along, He already did.
Romans 5:8 tells us that God had a plan to send His Son to redeem us. That He loved us when we were still in rebellion towards Him. “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners”.
It is important to know that God didn’t send Jesus to die because we had decided to love God and live for Him. He sent Jesus (and Jesus came willingly) because God loved US, not because we loved HIM.
My point is this; when we understand what God did for us, we understand why He is qualified to instruct us how to live. Then we begin to grasp the depth of His love and sacrifice. When we recognize what He gave up for us, we see why it makes sense that He gets to “tell us what to do”. God’s heart toward you and I, is always and only ever love.
When I begin to KNOW God’s heart, then the things that I DO (or don’t do), go beyond checking boxes. I no longer want to do the minimum to be accepted by God, like in my younger years. I want to go “all in”! I desire to give God the best, and biggest parts of myself!
God wants us to know Him, and to know His heart. Because it’s not just what we do, but what we know that makes the difference.