We have a buffet of passages within this chapter to examine, and many of them are cans teeming with worms eager to be released. We could talk about miracles, the implications of Jesus’ statement that mustard-seed-sized faith is sufficient to make trees uproot themselves, and the historicity of Jesus’ own miraculous healings. We could talk about how after nearly two millennia, Jesus has not returned. We could talk about how Jesus’ parable in verses 7-10 apparently suggests that our posture toward God should be that of slaves. If we opened up any one of these cans, could we get all the worms back in the can by the end of the post? This is the risk you run when you open cans.
So if yesterday’s verse forced me to admit what I don’t believe but maybe I should, then today’s verse forces me to admit what I don’t do but I definitely should. Man, God’s Little Instruction Book is eating my lunch.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve chucked the intro for today’s post. What’s worth saying? What words are going to be of actual benefit to you, the reader, and what words are just vacuous self-indulgence? Why even bother? I don’t know. Due to logistical necessities, we are back in the God’s Little Deconstruction Book series, and there’s nothing to do but move forward.
I’ve never seen more than ten minutes of Home Alone. In 1990, my parents took my brother and me to see it at the theater, but the first ten minutes were so full of family dysfunction and bad child behavior that Mom and Dad decided to walk us out of it. In particular, my mom took issue on many levels with Macaulay Culkin’s declaration “Families suck.” At the time, Home Alone was the latest hot ticket, and I was profoundly disappointed that my parents had dropped the hammer on it. But to this day, I still haven’t seen the full movie, and I honestly think I’m none the worse for it.
So, what verse does God’s Little Instruction Book have for us today? It’s none other than Proverbs 16:32, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.” And this is one verse where taking a bird’s-eye view of its context will not lend us any particular insight into its meaning. There do exist passages in Proverbs which are not simply successions of maxims and wise sayings, but chapter 16 is not one of them.
Today’s verse from God’s Little Instruction Book is a single simple imperative sentence from Hebrews. As he’s wrapping up his letter, the author writes, “Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have” (Hebrews 13:5). If we zoom out and survey the rest of Hebrews 13 for context, we won’t find any additional insights into the struggle between greed and contentment. The verse in question is situated among commands to stay faithful to your spouse and to be kind to strangers and prisoners, and the meat of chapter 13 is encouragement for the Jewish Christians who’ve earned the disdain of their fellow Jews for following a crucified Messiah. Verse five is the only verse about not making your bank account your best bud! So, what we’re going to do instead is zoom out even further and consider the contrast between greed and contentment in the New Testament epistles.
Remember Walter Brueggemann’s classification scheme for the Psalms: orientation, disorientation, and new orientation? I feel like you could apply the same scheme to my blog here. You’ve got your (i.e. my) posts of orientation, posts of disorientation…and sometimes a move from one mode to another. Take yesterday, where I took a step back, looked at myself and Ephesians 1:3-14 here, and moved from disorientation to new orientation. I’ve got a feeling I might manage a post of disorientation before we close out the week, but man, sometimes I get so tired of trying to whip up some thoughts for the blog. Sometimes I just wanna rest.