Story of the Day for Tuesday February 21, 2012
What Comes From the Heart
With their mouths these people honor me. But their hearts are far from me.
If you resist treating a rich friend better than a poor friend,
If you can eat the same food every day and yet be grateful for it,
If you can bear your aches and pains without boring others with your troubles,
If you patiently wait when others are too busy to give you their time,
If you can take criticism without blaming others,
If you can honestly claim no prejudice against another’s creed, color, or religion,
If you can conquer stress without relying on alcohol, drugs, or nicotine,
If you can ignore another’s rudeness without lashing back,
If you can defend those close to you without first having to justify their actions,
then, my friend, you are almost as well-adjusted as my dog.
When I assess my behavior, sometimes I’m quite satisfied with myself, but only because my standards are too low. For example, being faithful in worship attendance is a good thing, yet, it can easily degenerate into the notion that we’ve done something spiritual just by showing up.
But even my dog used to be faithful in worship attendance. When I was young I served a rural church out in the country. In the summertime they would open the windows and entrance doors to create a cooling breeze in the sanctuary.
I was embarrassed one day when I looked at the back of the church to discover that my golden retriever, Fred, had sauntered in and joined us for worship.
Afterward, one of the members who always sat in the back pew, sheepishly approached me. He said that this wasn’t the first visit by my dog; he had been attending all summer. When Fred would walk in to join the faithful they would quietly invite him into the back pew where he would lie down and enjoy the service.
My dog had been attending church all summer and yet I noticed no growth in his spiritual life.
Jesus told the religious people of his day that they worshipped God with their lips — they attended synagogue and said all the right things — but their hearts were far away. Yet, the life that God is looking for is something deeper than outward actions.
Suppose a child runs into the house and leaves the door open. If his dad tells him to shut the door and his son refuses, that’s not good.
But suppose the child stomped back to the door, slammed it shut as hard as he could, and huffed off to his room. Would that action now please the father? Not really.