I wonder how often we can go through the motions of religion for our own benefit. We can go to church because it makes us feel better. We can pray because it makes us feel more at peace. I don’t deny that these can both be benefits of church and prayer respectively, but as we see in Zechariah 7, motivation is important.
Zec 7:4 Then came the word of the LORD of hosts unto me, saying,
Zec 7:5 Speak unto all the people of the land, and to the priests, saying, When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye at all fast unto me, even to me?
Zec 7:6 And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did not ye eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves?
Zec 7:7 Should ye not hear the words which the LORD hath cried by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and in prosperity, and the cities thereof round about her, when men inhabited the south and the plain?
Earlier in the chapter, two men had been sent to ask the priests whether or not they need to continue observing the day when the Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians. Apparently, according to Jeremiah 3:12, this is a ceremony that the people were supposed to remember. It seems that now that the Temple was being rebuilt, some people wanted to get beyond this ceremony.
The response from God was to challenge the motivation of the people. He wanted to know why they had been doing the ceremonies in the first place. Had they truly been honoring God through the ceremonies, or had they only been doing it for themselves?
In fact, He broadens the discussion. Even in their everyday lives when they were eating and drinking, did they even do that for the glory of God?
That seems applicable. It makes me think about going through the motions. I think about this post I am writing for you now. Why am I writing it? Am I doing it for myself? Am I doing it as a kind of way to get people to think I am living a good life?
I am not perfect, but I try to avoid this kind of trap. I try to avoid falling into using the Bible and my writing about it as a vehicle for self-promotion. Rather, I try to first of all keep my focus on learning more about God as I go see this journey. Again, I try to write what I can so that I can share it with you.
Are my motives always perfect? I am sure they are not. Have I ever been perfect? I most surely have not. However, we don’t want to go through the motions like these people in Zechariah. We want to be the type of people who do what we do for the glory of God.
I know that I write a lot for you, and Proverbs 15 reminded me of something that I always need to keep at the forefront of my mind. The reason for that is because when I write for you, I hope that I am able to provide something of value. I am not claiming to be the greatest theologian of all time, and I would rather be thought of as a lay-person who is reading the Bible with the intention of learning rather than the intention of telling you everything I already know.
However, in this process of learning, there are times I need to do research, and there are times I need to seriously think about what I am about to write. Some issues are complicated, and some theological positions require more than a surface level understanding.
That is where this verse from Proverbs comes in.
Pro 15:28 The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.
I don’t just want to write for you for the sake of putting something on the page. Obviously, I have committed to writing every day, but I need to remember that it should not be hasty. I need to seriously ponder how I am communicating and what I am communicating. The last thing I want to do is pour out evil things because I did not seriously try to understand what God was communicating through these passages.
Again, I don’t claim to be a perfect theologian, and if you haven’t found something already, I am sure that there is some point where we will disagree on a certain Biblical interpretation.
However, I think that the message of this Proverb hits right near home at least for me. I hope that I can remember that I’m not just writing for the sake of putting words on the page. I am writing because I think the Bible is important, and I think it is important for people to engage with the material from the word of God.
Before writing anything or even speaking, we always ought to remember that a little bit of thought and contemplation will help. It is important to make sure that we are communicating what we intend.