It’s been said that the way to trap wild monkeys is to put something they want in a bottle, tie the bottle to a tree, then wait until the monkey reaches in to grab it and can’t pull out its hand. The sad little monkey will stick around until it’s caught simply because it wouldn’t let go. While I can’t pretend to know if that story is true (haven’t trapped anything but a squirrel in our attic lately), it’s sad to think about what we’ll hold onto at all costs.
As we started a two-part sermon in 1 Cor 5-7 (* part 1 summed up below), this past Sunday I challenged us to begin a conversation about what we’re holding onto at all costs… what we cling to so tightly that it prevents us from listening to God’s word. When the Bible warns us pretty bluntly about things like “idolatry” (loving things more than God), “immorality” (defining our behavior by standards other than God’s), and “drunkenness” (depending on other things more than we do on God), we’d better pay attention to the warnings. Here are some specific questions (in 4 categories) you can ask within your family or circle of friends to get at what you are clinging to… and why:
- What screen(s) do we spend the most time looking at? (think: phones, tablets, computers, televisions, etc)
- How much time do you think we spend looking at them? How many hours/days/weeks do you think we could go without looking at them?
- What makes up the content of what we’re watching? If you had to categorize it into one of three groups, would you call (1) edifying, (2) entertaining, or (3) endangering?
- Since most of us will answer (2) for the above question, what standards are I/we using to evaluate whether we’re not ignoring the dangers because of the potential entertainment?
- Is there anything illicit in the images or messages that we are regularly taking in?
- Given the fact that most of these media outlets are making their money through advertising, what is being pitched to us in these venues?
- If God told us to stop watching any of the above, would we be willing to? Why or why not?
- For more discussion: Why do you think that the media standards of our day are changed from what was appropriate 20-30 years ago? In what senses are we going to need to live in the world (with screen type devices) but not of the world (addicted to screens)? How can we ever tell if we’re developing an addiction to them? What should I do if I was?
- Do we prefer melodies or talk shows?
- How much music do we listen to each day? Does that seem like a high amount to us?
- Can we get into the car (or bedroom or office or workplace) and just be comfortable with silence for a while?
- If we took the lyrics (or script) of what we’re listening to and printed it out, what percentage of it would need to be blacked-out before we’d let someone else see it?
- If we invited people into the house and they talked about the kinds of topics we listen to, would we feel comfortable with it? What about the commercials that are on?
- If God told us to stop listening to any of the above, would we be willing to? Why or why not?
- For more discussion: Darren mentioned the idea that maturity doesn’t mean we can handle more R-rated themes. However, there are senses in which the Bible discusses very raw themes (including Song of Songs and graphic death). Is it appropriate to listen to discussions (or watch them above) that are graphic with the sense that we are only understanding what is going on in the world? If so, when? What are the limits to this type of exception?
- What amount of money that we currently spend isn’t on necessities? (think percentages… now consider the actual dollar amounts…)
- What amount of money that we currently earn is given to other causes? (think percentages… now consider the actual dollar amounts…)
- If we had to explain to someone from another culture why we spend money the way we do, could we do so without having to feel embarrassed?
- What is the plan we have for the money we save up? Considering that we’re saving it for uses we will control, what are our current intentions for that money?
- When we think about the terms the Bible uses to describe people who control/own things, which of them best describes us: an owner, a steward, a hoarder, or an idolater. Why?
- If God told us to stop spending and saving the way we are, would we be willing to? Why or why not?
- For more discussion: Although we live among the top 1-2% of the world’s wealthiest people on the planet, our culture seems to demand a good deal of spending for us to live and work. Should we allow our sense of prosperity to be shaped more by the global situation or more by our local situation? How do we know when it’s okay to spend money on something we find enjoyable, even when others around us and in other countries will always have needs? Is it ever appropriate to not give money to somebody who seems to have a need? Why?
- If people didn’t know us and only saw how we dress, what standard would they say governs our clothing choices? (think biblical vs fashionable)
- Are we regularly making concessions for clothes that are tighter/sloppier/more revealing/more showy just because they are considered fashionable?
- Suppose modesty was defined as “choosing an outfit so that the work God is doing inside me and that things I’m doing for God get the most attention” (as in 1 Pt 3:3-4 and 1 Tim 2:9-10). How would that shape what clothing we shouldn’t wear… how would that affect what clothing I should wear?
- If God told us to start dressing in a different way (even if it wasn’t popular), would we be willing to? Why or why not?
- For more discussion: Should modesty standards be determined by the shape of someone’s body? (In other words, is it less or more appropriate just because someone does or doesn’t “look good” in it?) Since few people would consider it appropriate to walk around in a swimsuit while in church (but we still have what we’d consider “modest swimwear”), is modesty a cultural standard or an absolute standard? How much impact should the difficulty of finding modest clothing in a store change what we think is appropriate?
As we move on to round two of the passage this next Sunday, I know questions like this will be helpful. Of course, I also know that they’ll be somewhat hard to discuss (especially in our family where there are 6 different people with 6 levels of affection for comfort and materialism, 6 degrees of fashion sense, 6 developing tastes in music, 6 varying senses of what refreshes and entertains- plus a pile of computers, cell phones, tablets, gaming consoles, and a TV). Yeah- we’ve got a lot to discuss… so I hope we’ll all experience God’s grace as we sit down to talk these things through!
In hope for some great conversations,
*Chapters 5 and 6 tell two stories about greed and immorality, and how they were dominating the Corinthian church in fairly shameful ways. Paul wanted them to act decisively to purge these sins from the midst of their own church, and he used the pictures of dough and leaven from the Old Testament Passover as the picture of why this internal action would be so important.