Summary: We live in a world of shortcuts. They can be harmless or detrimental to our well-being.
We live in a world of shortcuts. When I drive up to the Wendy’s drive-through menu, I order my usual #6 rather than recite the details of the food order.
You have your own shortcuts: mixing laundry loads; hot dinner pick up at Superstore; “control-C” on the computer to copy an item followed by “control-V” to paste it elsewhere.
We like shortcuts. Shortcuts are convenient. Shortcuts fast track us to the goal. For the most part they can be quite harmless. But there are some things we can’t afford to shortcut -- shortcuts prevent healthy relationships; shortcuts at work result in a less than adequate performance or can even put us in the unemployment line.
Our eternal destiny is not a shortcut proposition either. The dangerous reality confronting us is that we are so use to shortcuts and fast-tracking that we have allowed the shortcut mentality to govern how we “do faith” and relationship with God – a quick story with a Bible verse is considered sufficient time to reflect and wait on God or watching the televangelist or tele-teacher instead of the discipline of “going to church” which results in us becoming tele-tubby Christians! Shortcuts can be deadly.
Theologian and Scholar Dallas Williard writes of Jesus in The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering our hidden life in God: “He is not just nice. He is brilliant.” Sometimes it is very easy to consider Jesus’ words or the Bible’s lessons with a narrow, basic or one-dimensional perspective – it says this and means only this. But many of the texts are designed with multiple components to the interpretations and many possible principles of life-application. Today’s text is that type of text. The straight and narrow language of our text is as much about character formation and development as it is about salvation. Actually, it is about the Salvation of our minds, of the heart of humankind. We often relegate Salvation language to a physical transference from earth to heaven. We mustn’t forget that this old body is not transferring anywhere but back to the dust from where it came.
Our shortcut attitude filters into our lives in the form of
1. Casual Conduct
Jesus speaks in verses 13-14 of two roads. One leads to destruction and the other to life. We are instructed in verse 13, “Enter through the narrow gate”. Why? “For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction.” Charles H. Talbert, author of Sermon on the Mount: Character Formation and Decision Making, offers insight to Jewish and Greek authors describing this language for us. Philo in Special Laws 4:112 framed it up as the difference between “the way of pleasure and the way of self-control. The road leading to pleasure is easy and downhill. The road leading to self-control is uphill and toilsome.” Or consider Hesiod in Works and Days, again as cited by Talbert: “Wickedness is easy to choose and plentiful; the way is smooth and near to hand. On the other hand the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life and there are few who find it.” Many don’t find it because they’re too casual to pursue it. You can’t find a job sitting at home watching the soaps or playing Xbox. You can’t get a degree by ignoring assignments. You can’t keep your marriage healthy if you never spend time together. You can’t enter the small gate and walk the narrow road of character formation, grace living and progressive salvation if you don’t apply your heart to the task. It cannot be casual and we must not be dismissive about who I am and what I need to become.
Shortcut attitudes not only present themselves as casual conduct but through a spirit of
We tend to be too glib, too shallow sometimes about our ‘right’ to access to God. We assume we’re heaven-bound and all is well. This is a dangerous flaw in our assumptions. St. Paul charges us in Philippians 2:12 to work out our salvation with fear and trembling and for good reason. Jesus talks in Matt 7:15-23 about a tree and its fruit. He explains how the fruit our lives produce is the evidence of our connection to Him. He warns us that even people who prophecy and perform miracles in His name will be rejected by God. Things are not as they always appear. So how can I know that I’m okay; that God says I’m okay? What is the measuring stick? Verse 24 – whoever hears what he says and does what he instructs are those who are like the wise man who builds his house on the rock.
Reverend Edward Hastings captures the lesson well concerning Jesus’ teaching of the small gate and narrow road: “Until we rid ourselves of all carelessness and feel our life in deep relationships, until we ‘see God and are troubled’, we are not ready to welcome Christ as a Revelation and a Power.”