by Pastor Sam Cirrincione
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denariiand gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”Luke 10:25-37
Any “Type A” personality knows well the compulsion to stay on a task…the necessity to have an agenda and complete it by the end of a given time frame, the overwhelming weight and guilt that comes from being thrown off course or not accomplishing the necessary duties, the pressure of feeling like one must set short-term goals for the day, separated by deadlines, and achieve them, in order to feel like he or she hasn’t failed, the frustration and burden that comes along with falling short. They know the spiral of fatigue, and frenzy, and fatalism, and fury that comes along with a day that has exploded with plan-altering interruptions. They know the requirement of having to complete all set tasks in order to come home with a feeling of peace rather than a feeling of agitation, which usually results in lashing out. And they know the scurry of making another to-do list in the evenings for the next day, especially when previous tasks were left incomplete. Even now, the very thought of this kind of chaos and lack of control is bringing about defeat and anxiety. Can you feel it? I can.
Who Sets Your Goals?
The unique thing about functioning this way is that it is just assuming to know the right things to accomplish in a day in order to do what’s “right.” Everyone agrees that accomplishing the items on your list is what is required. But…required by who? Who set the goals? Who decided that those items are to be the ones that are required? And who determined that it is a failure not to accomplish them? Most of the time, it is simply the one who makes the goals who feels like they must necessarily be completed. It is pridefully assumed, almost as a determined universal truth, that it is right to accomplish certain, specific tasks by the end of certain, specific days. But who said that not doing so was failure?
What I’m getting at is that when we live under the control of our own to-do lists, we are being ruled by a set of arbitrary standards that do not, in actuality, have anything to do with our success or failure. As Christians we would do well to ask ourselves if we are seeking God about what should be on our agenda. We should ask ourselves if our agendas align with His value system, or simply our own. We should ask God what He wants us to do with any given day, or with any given week. We should ask God about what would glorify Him most, and be most loving to others. And we should seek God about what should be removed from our agendas, or postponed in our plans, because they are driven by selfish ambition.
Value Love Above Lists
God often fills our days with “interruptions” in order to wean us off of ourselves, and cause our character to change, by replacing our lists with what is better. This might cause us to fall short in our accomplishing, but God is sovereignly working this to our benefit—to keep us from being satisfied in our accomplishing. He does this so that in our desperation we would forsake self-reliance and cast ourselves upon Him. And He does this so that we would fill our days with what is infinitely more important than our lists—love.
In Luke 10, Jesus told the parable of The Good Samaritan. It is a story about a man who is journeying from Jerusalem to Jericho, and on his way, he is robbed, stripped, beaten, and left half dead. Three men pass by and see him. A priest, a Levite, and a Samaritan. The first two ignore the man, pridefully avoiding him and his condition (though they don’t see their pride), and continue on in pursuit of what they deem important. The Samaritan, however, has compassion. He is willing to have his agenda interrupted. He exemplifies showing mercy to the lowly and loving even the stranger as his neighbor (which Jesus is emphasizing). And he not only looks upon the man with love, but also takes the time to bind the man’s wounds, pour oil and wine on his pounded flesh, put the man on his animal, bring him to an inn, take care of him, allow him sleep, talk to the inn-keeper on the man’s behalf, and pay the money to have him cared for. Jesus tells His listeners to go and do likewise. He also tells a listening lawyer that apart from loving God, there is nothing more important than loving others.
Think about it, in the midst of a normal week, would you give up an entire day, like the Samaritan did, to help someone in need? Does your value system align with Jesus’? Is love for your neighbor more important than your lists? Is costly love an inconvenience to your premade schedule? Do you need “enough notice” to serve someone, in little or big ways, so that you can pencil them in? Will you deny a friend asking for sporadic help because you think you must stick to your plans? Christian, our plans are not that important. Jesus says love for neighbor should be the second highest priority to us.
Love Will Be More Satisfying
I am not good at this, but God is growing me in it. I want to be more loving, more Christ-like. Like Jesus, who heals the woman on the road to resurrecting Jairus’ daughter (Luke 8), we all must allow for interruptions by God. We must allow for the canceling of our plans as God brings people with needs into our path. We must not be preoccupied with “more important tasks” than love. We must not think what we have to do is so urgent that we allow nothing to disrupt it. And we must not think we are doing God a service by making straight our paths, when His detour is actually the straightest.
God interrupted me recently with an opportunity to serve a brother, and I took the opportunity. I wish I did so more often. I forsook my plans, and, consequently, I achieved none of my agenda for the day. A few times that day I was tempted to despair, thinking all was lost because my plans were totally incomplete. Yet I fought those feelings with the truth of what God values, and I continued on in serving my brother. I drove home happier than usual. Happier than when I complete my tasks. Happier than I would have been if I had spent my day serving myself. I remembered that true joy is found in being like Christ, in sacrificing myself for the benefit of others. Blessed is the man who is like Christ and who obeys Christ by choosing the path of costly love!