Sometimes, when you need advice, it often seems easiest just to Google it, ask Alexa or check Wikipedia. If you want to do it the traditional way, you might find a good book on the topic. If you’re happy sharing your question with others, you might ask someone – whether face to face, on the phone, on WhatsApp or Messenger… however you like!
However, there are some things which need expert advice and you can’t just find out yourself. If you’re building a house, unless you can dedicate a lot of time and energy, you’re likely to employ an architect and a builder. If you’re travelling somewhere difficult or remote, you may want to speak to a travel guide. Or if you’re feeling unwell, and you can’t work out what to do about it, you would need to ask a doctor.
These are only three examples – there are thousands of tasks which need support from someone who is more qualified than ourselves.
If we turn to the world of faith, the Bible’s text can seem abstract from our daily lives. Although it was written over a period of many hundreds of years, across an area which spanned the Middle East and Europe, the philosophy still takes time to get used to. So it’s very refreshing to see that the basics are still accessible to us. Often the Bible uses the idea of expert skills to demonstrate why it is necessary, and what can be done to achieve a better future.
The analogies tell us that we should take up the offer of a clear plan and purpose, set out by God. The only other way will trap us in the murky world of human nature. If you like, it’s the contrast between professionalism and amateur DIY – but on a truly vast scale.
Let’s go to our three examples and see what the Bible has to say.
In Matthew 7, we read about the difference between two housebuilders.
One of them knows that a house must be built to last, based on firm foundations. They’ve listened to competent instructions and taken them seriously. Building on rock is challenging, requiring immense effort to get a solid structure in place. It may take months or even years to get to a point where it even looks like a house. But the investment of time and labour is worth it. The advice from the designers and master builders was sound. In bad weather, the house goes nowhere. It’s a fantastic demonstration of the power of following practical teaching through thick and thin.
The other builder thinks they can put up their house on anything they like. They want to do it their way. The foundation doesn’t matter to them – they just want to see their house go up, move in, and call it home. It’s an easy location – perhaps a beachfront spot, nestled in the sand dunes. But the weather turns, and a storm sweeps in. The rivers from the nearby hills turn into torrents flowing towards the sea. The house is destroyed. The plan was impossible, right from the ground up. It didn’t offer any hope at all. This is what happens if you simply trust in your own ideas.
The story is a vivid description of the differences between following Christ and ignoring him. It’s interesting that Jesus doesn’t just tell people to accept his teaching, but that they have to put the advice into active service in their lives. Above all, you have to both listen and react to somebody who knows what they are talking about.
Now let’s look at the idea of travelling. This is a shorter analogy, but one which bears remembering.
On the journeys of life, you need to know where you are heading, but you also need advice about how to conduct yourself during the journey. How to stay safe, look out for others, and make friends – not enemies. Every traveller has a two-fold duty to take care of themselves and leave the world in a better state than it was left by their forefathers.
And so we see in Deuteronomy 6 that God commanded His people to keep His teachings at all times, even when they might be preoccupied with other tasks at hand. In the heat of the action and in the course of the journey, it is so clearly necessary to bear in mind God’s ways and have them ready.
Lastly, let’s look at the medical analogy.
A huge amount of Biblical teaching involves health, hygiene and wellbeing. Through the early part of the Bible, we see instructions about ways to deal correctly with all sorts of symptoms, as well as the impacts of illness and disease on those mentioned. The idea of illness is closely tied to the burden of mortality in general, and in turn, the Bible is plain in the reason it gives us: human beings failed to obey God at the start of the recorded history of life on earth, and as such, they will suffer until things are made perfect.
Those who know how to prevent or cure spiritual problems are held most responsible for correctly using the skills given to them. Jesus Christ himself expected those who claim to be righteous to work hardest to deal with the issue of sin.
In turn, though, there are some who have been shunned by the people who think they are the most discerning followers of religion. It turns out they are the most likely to receive and accept help. Jesus said that despised people would receive help from the doctor – the healer – him! And God’s Word tells us that this offer of help was largely successful. Those in the deepest trouble were often the most receptive to a solution.
You can read more about these events in Luke 5.
This shows us a very sobering lesson. When we hear the message of God, are we so self-righteous that we feel that we can work out our own way to deal with it, or do we wholeheartedly accept the expert?
In May, we’re looking forward to a series of talks where we look at the most challenging questions which people may want to put to God Himself. As part of the series, we’ll be inviting questions from our online audiences. We don’t want to act as experts without good authority, so we will be looking exclusively at the Bible’s answers, and the logical steps to understanding our world. Do join us!