Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Where's The Beef?

Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun.
Did you know that in a study done about three years ago 80% of respondents could identify ‘two all beef patties’ as one of the ingredients of the Big Mac? That same study also revealed that only 60% of the respondents could identify ‘Thou shalt not kill’ as one of the Ten Commandments.
While 43% of the folks could identify two of the least-recalled siblings (Bobby and Peter) of the Brady Bunch, the two least-recalled ‘commandments’ were familiar to only 34% (Remember the Sabbath) and 29% (Do not make any false idols), respectively.
In another recent study, people were asked to identify which of the Ten Commandments they can agree with – which ones really matter. Their responses, in descending order of ‘affirmed’ importance, were:
Don’t commit murder
Don’t tell lies about people
Don’t steal
Don’t commit adultery
Respect your parents
Don’t envy other people’s property
Don’t create or worship idols
Observe the Sabbath as a holy day and a day of rest
Don’t have any gods other than the one true God
Don’t misuse the name of God
Jesus made clear that THE most important commandment is, in fact, 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' (Matthew 22:37) But I really like another story where Jesus showed that same priority without actually stating it.
Once a religious leader asked Jesus this question: “Good Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked him. “Only God is truly good. But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. Honor your father and mother.’”
The man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.”
When Jesus heard his answer, he said, “There is still one thing you haven’t done. Sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
But when the man heard this he became very sad, for he was very rich.
(Luke 18:18-23, NLT)
What I get out of this story is:
1. While many may think Jesus was chastising the religious leader for calling him ‘good’, Jesus was actually saying, “You may not even realize it, but you are acknowledging Who I am when you call Me ‘good’.”
2. Jesus jumped right over THE most important commandment and started listing those outward, visible commandments that the religious leader could really claim he had been following.
3. Then Jesus got to the heart of the matter and said, basically, ‘So you’ve done all of those things that even the culture around you says should be done. But you’ve lost sight of THE most important thing: Love ME most; Put ME first.’
How can it really matter if we go through life without committing murder, without stealing, without committing adultery, honoring our parents, etc. without loving God most and putting God first? That would just make us ethical, moral people. But, we’d be no better off than that religious leader.
I didn’t mention those survey statistics to make anyone feel guilty for not being able to list all of the Ten Commandments in the correct order. Rather, I wanted to show that, like the religious leader in the above story, we tend to try to focus on doing/not doing those things that make us appear to be ‘good people’ in the world’s eyes. Instead, shouldn’t we focus on being God’s people?
And what do God’s people do? Love God most; Put God first.
All that other stuff just falls into place when we do that. We don’t even have to memorize all of those shalt’s and shall not’s.
It may not be quite as catchy as ‘two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun.’ But it matters a whole lot more.
Love God most. Put God first.

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