OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #233 Rebellious Tools
Now that I’ve finished painting my carport, it is time to tackle some other projects around the house, so this week the job was to fix and adjust cupboard doors and hinges. On some cupboards the screws which hold the hinges are loose or stripped and so I have to tighten them or do something to keep them from falling off. Most have paint in the corners which keeps them from closing. And some rub and scrape because the wood has warped over time.
So, I got out the tools and worked on the cupboards until they closed better. At one point I had a vast array of implements spread across the floor since it took screwdrivers, chisels, planes, a drill, and glue to do the work. But now they open without scraping and close without slamming, and they stay closed, too! I haven’t finished them all yet, but at least the most annoying ones are done.
Tools are great things as long as you can get them to do what you want. It’s a good thing they don’t have a mind of their own, or who knows what might happen. A chisel is difficult enough to use without carving too deep or slicing one’s fingers. If it could act on its own it might veer off in some new direction, gouging wood in the process. Imagine what the drill would do if it didn’t want to work. As we reached for it, it might rev its motor as if to say, “Back off - you’re not the boss of me!”
As Paul continues to instruct Titus, he reminds the people to be “subject to rulers and authorities” in Titus 3:1.* It is interesting that Paul would say this even though he had many run-ins with authorities in various cities. In Philippi he was flogged and imprisoned. Later he spent four years being bounced around the legal system between Jerusalem, Caesarea, and Rome. Many of Paul’s letters were written from prison.
In Romans 13 we find out why Paul would say this. Rulers and authorities are God’s servants (Rom 13:6), and therefore this is not only a matter of avoiding punishment, but also one of conscience (13:5). “Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honour.” (13:7)
It is silly to think that a chisel might decide to veer off on its own, or that a drill might refuse to do its work since they are inanimate and incapable of deciding for themselves. We, on the other hand, sometimes make decisions because we resent someone else telling us what to do, and so we veer off to do our own thing or simply refuse to cooperate.
Part of Christian maturity is putting down the rebellious urge within us which says, “You can’t tell me what to do.” It started when we gave our hearts to Jesus, declaring that “Jesus is Lord.” As we acknowledge that we are actually people under Jesus Christ, it becomes easier to recognize authority. As we begin to understand that we are not our own we can give honour where it is due.
It is hard for God to use us if we are rebellious. In this way this issue is not only one of being subject to earthly authority. If we won’t give honour here on earth where we can see with our eyes and touch with our hands, we’re not likely going to honour the authority of Jesus either. A sharp chisel is a great tool in the hands of a master. May we bring honour to our Master as we allow ourselves to be tools in His hands.
I hope this helps. Be on fire.
OnFire is a weekly letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis. This letter published Sept 2, 2010. *Scripture taken from the New International Version. To subscribe or reply, email email@example.com. Archives are located at www.onfireletter.com. Blog located at http://www.onfireletter.blogspot.com/