“But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.” (1 Corinthians 14:40 NIV)
Although this verse applies to worship, I even apply it to my kitchen cupboards! They must look orderly! That’s why I remove certain food products from their bulky, messy packaging and store the contents in glass jars, displaying them in a tidy, orderly fashion. My discrete labels, my memory of package information, and my general knowledge about food products suffices.
However, if anyone were to inherit my kitchen pantry, they’d have no idea what information was on the original packaging. They might use my collection only for ornamental purposes. Sadly, over time, the unused products would become as useless as faded spices.
Doesn’t that happen to biblical ingredients, too? The Bible is not an orderly textbook of theology. People have discussed endlessly what it actually means. So, imagine the Bible as messy packaging for big theme ingredients, like love, grace, forgiveness, and salvation. Sadly, people who desire theology to be orderly, neat, and organized love to extract gems from Scripture, removing them from the original packaging (the biblical context) to display them in orderly glass jars, like books of theology, collections of promises, cards, readings, songs, etc. These nurturing ingredients become mere ornaments of traditions and simplistic thinking. God’s love becomes divorced from His wrath, and His promises are separated from His condition of obedience. The gems become as useless as faded spices. We forget how to use them to transform our lives and society as God intended.
With that in mind, I praise God that the Bible didn’t get passed down like my minimized pantry. No! Thankfully, Scripture retains the original messy packaging.
This image of messy packaging got me thinking about Christian heroes since biblical days. Often their remarkable accomplishments and famous quotes get displayed as tidy ornaments. Yet, I find myself most impacted by the messy packaging of their life stories. It means wading through the tedious details of preserved letters, diary entries, anecdotes, and old English. In such messy packaging, I’ve discovered how their faith was forged. I’ve learned how they endured challenges, like sickness, slander, death threats, and expulsion. I’ve seen how they cried out to God, how they learned to trust, forgive, and love. They never wished to be ornamental heroes. They just did what came to hand to do, and they continue to inspire readers to grow in faith through the messy packaging of life.
Who wouldn’t benefit from such testimonies! Our own lives certainly can feel like messy packaging, despite our attempts to keep it orderly. We can become overly controlling, and even try to squeeze others into our tidy, manageable compartments. Isn’t this a common downfall of church institutions?
Let’s embrace the fact that messy packaging in life, as well as in Scripture, serves a vital role. It points us back to our need for God.
Prayer: Lord, guide our way through the discomforts of messy packaging in a fitting and orderly way, that faith may flourish, personally and corporately. Amen.
Copyright © 2021, by Diane Eaton <[email protected]>, first published on the PresbyCan Daily Devotional presbycan.ca .
Paisley, Ontario, Canada
Reprinted from PresbyCan with author’s permission