A while back, I wrote a book entitled God’s Tool Box. It’s only available online and I haven’t done a lot of promoting of it, even though I believe it’s one of the most profound books I have written. Actually, it’s the thesis of the book that is profound. Whether the book as a whole is helpful and enriching must be left to the eye of the beholder. My thesis was that we have failed to recognized that many of the things God’ gave us and called on us to do, were tools to help not ceremonies to perform. We read our Bibles looking for spiritual “hoops to jump through” and God is not in the hoop jumping business. He gave us tools to help us help one another grow in love. He’s not into jigsaw puzzles, tests, or proofs of theological soundness. God is into giving us all we need to develop a deeper relationship with him and help us help others do the same. We have fought, argued, debated, and divided over how, when, why, and where to “perform” the tools he gave us, when all He ever wanted was for us to use them to grow. We’ve ended up worshiping tools and missing “the greatest of these is love.”
Jesus was trying to help the Jewish people and leaders understand that same principle when it came to the Law of Moses. They turned tools that were meant to help them remember and draw closer to God into rituals and ceremonies that promoted self-righteousness and missed the principles behind them. In reading Matthew this week, I realized that Jesus was constantly challenging his audience, friend and foe alike, to deal with why God said, “I desire mercy not sacrifices.” He told them if they honestly dealt with that message from the prophet, they wouldn’t ask most of the questions they asked of him. I think the most telling challenge from Jesus to see tools rather than rituals, was his answer to the Pharisees when they challenged him about letting his disciples pick and eat grain on the Sabbath as well as his healing of people on the Sabbath. He told them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Wow! That probably rocked them to their sandals. The Sabbath was a tool to help them rest, recuperate, and refocus on God, but they turned it into a legally restricting act of self-righteousness.
God is the original “use it or lose it” instructor. When the Sabbath stopped being about drawing closer to God, it stopped being a spiritual tool. It must have truly messed with their heads when Jesus declared that He was the “Lord of the Sabbath.”
Our time together as a family of God is a beautiful tool that God gave us to help us help one another grow in Him. When it stops being a tool and becomes the legal means to judge, criticize, and perform – it stops being what God intended it to be. He never gave us ceremonies or rituals to perform. He gave us tools to use. and if we don’t use them for the intended purpose – like Paul said about the Communion in 1 Corinthians – go home!
How would it change the way we look at what we do if we saw those things as tools rather than acts, rituals, or requirements? Could it be that tools were made for us, not us for tools?