Summary: We look for loopholes in what God has called us to do, but the Bible calls us to a proactive lifestyle, it makes us face who we really are, and it calls us to accountability.
Some of us love to take the simple and make it complex. Some of us thrive on taking perfectly obvious matters and making them as obscure as possible. My neighbor’s car has on it a bumper sticker that says, “Eschew obfuscation”. After about a half-hour with the dictionary, I found out that means, “Keep it simple, stupid.” Some of us love to take what is clear and make it unclear. Like the pastor who was in trouble with his church folks, because they said that he was invisible during the week and inscrutable on Sunday. We would rather make everything complicated and hard to understand.
That is what makes work for lawyers, of course. A lawyer is a person you hire to write ten pages to say that you want to leave all your belongings to your children. But that’s too simple. The lawyer wants to say more than “leave”. For $300 you can have, “give, devise, and bequeath”. “Belongings”? That’s not enough. The lawyer wants to specify “clothing, jewelry, automobiles, household furniture and furnishings, recreational equipment, and personal effects used by me or about my person or home.” Wow, I didn’t know I had that much stuff! That’s what we call legalese. Lots of words to cover something that appears to be quite simple.
Once I found myself in a dispute with a neighbor over a petty property matter. When we lived in Lexington, Kentucky, my next-door neighbor got upset because I didn’t know exactly where the property line was, and he claimed I was mowing a foot or two of his lawn every week. Believe me, I would have been only too happy to mowed less lawn, but instead of just telling me to stop, he had his lawyer write me something about “cease and desist”. All right, already! How we love to make simple things difficult and clear things unclear. That’s called legalese. Legalese is language that spells everything out in excruciating detail. Legalese is language that defines every little circumstance in order to keep something from happening.
So, if I confront you with a long legal document and ask you to sign it, what are you likely to say? Some of us will say, “I need to take it home and study it.” That’s good. That’ll keep you from getting caught in a mess. But I dare say most of us will respond, “Can we just cut through the legalese and get to the point? What does it really say? What does it mean?” We want to cut through the legalese and get to the core of the matter.
But now if I confront you with the expectations of the Christian faith, what are you likely to say? Some of us will say, “I need to think about that.” That’s good. Nothing wrong with that. Some will say, “I want to pray about that.” Of course that’s right. But many of us will respond with legalese and will do our best to make complex what is simple and to render into obscurity what is clear. Many of us will look for ways to dodge out of all that is involved. We will resort to legalese. We will describe all the reasons why we really don’t have to do this or that. We will get bound up in ifs and ands and buts. And we will miss one great shining truth – that following Christ is more about grace and gift than it is about rules and regulations, that following Christ is more about responding in love and living in gratitude than it is about obligation. But we will resort to legalese. We will look for ways not to do what God wants us to do.