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Friday, August 26, 2011

A Tangled Mess

8 Mixed motives twist life into tangles; pure motives take you straight down the road.
(Proverbs 21:8)

"Watch out for people who try to dazzle you with big words and intellectual double-talk. They want to drag you off into endless arguments that never amount to anything. They spread their ideas through the empty traditions of human beings and the empty superstitions of spirit beings. But that's not the way of Christ. Everything of God gets expressed in him, so you can see and hear him clearly. You don't need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realize the fullness of Christ, and the emptiness of the universe without him. When you come to him, that fullness comes together for you, too. His power extends over everything."
(Colossians 2:8)

Big words and intellectual double-talk are merely a smoke-screen for people to attempt to dazzle us with their intelligence.  I have learned that "intelligence" really is not all that it is cracked up to be!  Sometimes, the big word and double-talk is just to give the "appearance" that the person actually knows the answer to something!  God doesn't need big words to speak to the hearts of mankind - in fact, he tells us that he uses the simple to confound the one who appears so wise.

A motive is really the goal or reason for a particular action.  We all have "motives".  In a cop show, they have to prove that the criminal had "means" and "motive" to commit the crime.  Without both, there is no conviction - they cannot convict because the evidence doesn't speak to either the motive or the means.  God doesn't look for us to have the means - he simply looks at the motives of our heart.  He wants us to recognize what it is that "puts us into action" in a certain direction.

Mixed motive twist life into tangles - can it be put any simpler?  When we have differing reasons for our actions - like when the mood strikes us one day, but it doesn't the next - we live a pretty complicated life.  Now you may say that you don't struggle with mixed motives, but let me challenge that theory!  Have you ever done something for someone in order to get them to do something for you?  If so, you have experienced mixed motives because you are "doing" the action with strings attached!

A tangle is a mass of confused pieces all meshed together without any real sense of order - it is a mess!  The biggest thing we need to realize about the power of our motives is the mess they can make of our lives when they are not correct.  They actually become something that hampers or obstructs growth.  Dad used to cut the bottom off the roots of a root-bound plant because they were so tangled.  When I asked why he did this, he reminded me that when they are so tangled, they cannot grow anymore.  The same is true in our lives - when our motives are mixed, we have difficulty with growth.

The writer of Colossians is believed to be the Apostle Paul.  Paul brings it all together for us in the passage above.  When we get caught up in the "empty" stuff, we just don't grow up as we should.  How do we know if our lives are being complicated (tangled) by the "empty stuff"?  Well, it is pretty apparent from the passage that if our attention is on making ourselves look good through empty traditions or big talk that is meant to impress, we are giving room to the "empty stuff" in our lives.  This might look like when we are attending church with nothing more than the attitude that we can check that "task" off the list for the week, or when we give a person on the street a five dollar bill without the benefit of really connecting with their need.

Paul tells us plain and simple - don't confuse all the religious hype and the big talk with being connected closely with your Lord.  This just makes a tangle of our lives!  Jesus is not understood through scholarly pursuits (although I do not discount formal learning about the scriptures), nor is he understood through the debate of his methods.  We often think that someone with all the book learning is someone to emulate - in contrast, we discount the wisdom of the one who has learned to live a truly "untangled" life!

There is much wisdom in getting to know Jesus - without all the hype, tradition, or double-talk.  When we connect with him, we understand the things that we could not see plainly before.  We call this revelation.  Jesus brings clarity to our motives - he exposes that we have the means to access him -  and he makes it clear who he really wants to be in our lives.  This type of revelation is like "cutting off the roots" of our tangled, "pot-bound" lives.  It actually serves to create growth, causing us to flourish.  

We are incapable of untangling our own lives.  We need the Lord to do that.  We need him to help us see the vanity and emptiness of all our double-talk.  We count on him to show us where our talk is masking over some action that is neither right, not good for our lives.  That is when we begin to experience growth.  That is when others begin to see the impact of living an untangled life.  Give him your tangled mess of a life and he will certainly do some "cutting" away of the tangle.  It may hurt now, but in just a short while, the growth will outweigh the temporary hurt of that "untangling" process.