“BECAUSE I SAID SO!”
Four words that every parent has uttered, even though most of us probably vowed when we were young to never say them.
But as adults, we have a better understanding that there’s more to that phrase than can be heard by the ears of our children. I know that when I say those words to my boys, I am actually saying, “You need to obey what I’ve told you to do or not do because I know what’s good for you and I only have your best interest in mind. So just trust me when I instruct you. Believe that I will take care of you and protect you.”
But let’s face it, to a stubborn seven year old, that sounds like pure gibberish and does nothing to quench his desire for immediate gratification. And so we lean on that old crutch to get them to respond and hopefully obey.
Don’t you know our Heavenly Father gets a good chuckle every time he hears us use that phrase? Because we, like our stubborn children, are just as guilty of rebelling or avoiding obedience when it doesn’t scratch our itches. We obey quickly and easily when there’s something in it for us, but as soon as He asks us to do something that interrupts our agenda we hesitate, and sometimes even outright refuse.
A few months ago I found myself in a similar predicament that wound up having a profound effect on my understanding of obedience. We were waist-deep in the middle of the hardest moments during our transition to Tennessee. My time on staff at the church where we had been for 12 years had come to an end, our house was still on the market, and we were waiting for the Lord to show us what our next step was. One Sunday evening, Stephen and I were sitting in the 5pm service at church. It was a special week because they were wrapping up a big push for the Next Chapter Campaign, which was raising funds for the new building opening up in the Spring. At the end of the service they did something that is not normal for them. They opened up an opportunity for people to come place their tithes and/or Next Chapter contributions in baskets at the front of the room as an act of worship (normally we just dropped them in baskets on the way out or gave online).
It suddenly dawned on me that in the craziness of everything, I had not set up our tithe payment for that month and it was well past the normal date it would’ve been sent. I found myself struggling with what to do. We were already stressing about our funds, given that I was now unemployed and we had no idea how long it would be. But then I started thinking, “What if this is why the Lord has held out on us? What if my disobedience in paying our family’s tithe is why things aren’t moving forward?” So I wrote the check, just knowing that God was going to bless my obedience and do something big that week. Monday came and went, then Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. By that Friday, I was becoming more convinced that this was not in fact the week I thought it was going to be.
I sat down that morning for some time with the Lord to make sure He knew how disappointed I was that 1) He still had not brought us a buyer, and 2) He had set us back a solid chunk of money that we really couldn’t afford to lose at this point.
As you can imagine, it didn’t take long for my heart to come under pretty severe conviction and I was quickly reminded of a number of scriptures regarding believers’ obedience.
You must keep all of my commandments, for I am the Lord. – Leviticus 22:31
I am the Lord your God; follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Keep my Sabbaths holy, that they may be a sign between us. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God. – Ezekiel 20:19-20
Love the LORD your God and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and his commands always. – Deuteronomy 11:1
Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him. – Psalm 128:1
If you love me, obey me. – John 14:15
Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” – John 14:23
Sure, there are plenty of other verses that talk about all the rewards and blessings that come as a result of obeying the Lord, but on this day at this particular moment, these verses cut me to the core. Almost like a giant, heavenly “BECAUSE I SAID SO!” That day I realized just how much of my obedience was motivated by selfish ambition and what I stood to gain. My love for the Lord was always part of it, but my mind was certainly preoccupied with what might be in it for me. Could the Lord have opened up the floodgates because of my one, simple act of obedience in turning over that tithe check – a resounding YES. But instead He chose to show me that when my motivation is not pure, all bets are off.
As those who follow Christ, we are daily faced with a battle for our motivation. Do we serve the Church, love our neighbors, and obey His commands because of what He might do for us, or out of love and devotion to Him? I am choosing to fight for the latter everyday. Just remember, BECAUSE HE SAID SO:
. . . there was light!
. . . the earth was wiped clean through a flood!
. . . the lineage of God’s chosen people began with a 100 year old man!
. . . the Red Sea parted before the very eyes of the Israelites!
. . . a young man defeated a great warrior with nothing but a sling and a stone!
. . . the Son of God was born to a virgin!
. . . the blind saw, the deaf heard, the lame walked, and the dead lived!
. . . Jesus rose from that grave, redeeming mankind to Himself!
My prayer today, and everyday, is that this would be enough for me. Is it enough for you? How do you fight to keep your motivations pure?