Basic principles - you see many charter schools starting up all over the place touting they are getting back to the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic. The basics are essential in order to have a good foundation upon which to build. So many schools today have gone in all directions, forgetting the basics or somehow "reinventing" them so they are "new". Let me just warn us against reinventing any of the basics God expects us to have built into our lives - this is just not sound business! There are "basic essentials" we all need to have "worked into" our lives in order to have a good foundation in times of trial and temptation - without these, we are subject to all manner of deception and disobedience.
Repeat these basic essentials over and over to God’s people. Warn them before God against pious nitpicking, which chips away at the faith. It just wears everyone out. Concentrate on doing your best for God, work you won’t be ashamed of, laying out the truth plain and simple. Stay clear of pious talk that is only talk. Words are not mere words, you know. If they’re not backed by a godly life, they accumulate as poison in the soul. (2 Timothy 2:14-17 MSG)
Some of us view "rules" as something which restricts and binds, so we resist them with all manner of passion. Almost all rules are meant for our safety and protection. Wearing a hard hat on the construction site is mandatory, but it gives us "hat head". A little hat head outweighs a gash in the noggin which requires stitches and lengthy healing! Driving the speed limit puts a cramp in our style and may take us a little longer to get to wear we want to go. A safe arrival, without crumpled fenders, is much more desirous than body shop work, increased insurance rates, and a traffic ticket! See...rules aren't all bad! How we view them may be, but not the rules themselves!
Paul's advice to Timothy - repeat the basics over and over again - until you get them down pat in your life and they become the basis of all you do and say. In fact, this is so essential, Paul asks Timothy to remind his brothers and sisters in Christ (fellow believers) to do the same thing - in order that the Body of Christ may be built upon a solid foundation. Then he launches into a couple of things we need to guard against in our lives - because they have a destructive bent to them.
- Don't get caught up in a whirlwind of nitpicking. It is so easy to do this, isn't it? We drift into the negativity in the workplace or home environments, getting caught up in the inconsequential details, and missing the things right in front of your own face. Notice - nitpicking seems to focus not on what matters, but on what doesn't matter at all! It has an air of "pettiness" about it. Nothing destroys relationships quicker than a critical spirit. As Paul puts it, "It just wears everyone out."
- Avoid appearing "holy" or "religious" because of nothing more than your talk. You have heard the adage - walk the talk - I think this is what he had in mind here. It is more than mere words which make a testimony - in fact, it is life change which makes the "loudest" testimony! Back the words up with a lifestyle reflective of the dramatic difference grace has made in your life, or just don't bother! Maybe that seems a little harsh to some, but trust me on this - no one wants someone to be all "preachy" about one thing, but live totally opposite of what they preach!
So, as a word of final advice to Timothy, Paul tells him to concentrate on doing his best for God. Now, lest we think Paul was telling Timothy (and us) that we needed to be "working" toward getting "good stuff" FROM God - in other words, working our way to God by our good works - he wasn't! He was reminding Timothy (and us) that every believer has a mission in life - to be agents of God's grace in this world. Lay out the truth in your life - by living out the truth in your life - and you won't get caught up in this system of works which is nothing more than religious piety. Just sayin!