An economy of words

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In my series of posts The proper care and feeding of elephants, I write about conversations which probably should take place but never do that can do some serious damage to relationships over time. Words are powerful, both the expressed and the implied.

Last Sunday at my church, our pastor Jeff challenged us to begin reading a chapter of the book of John a day. As with most Bible reading plans I’ve done, I started off strong and committed to my daily reading only to lose steam by the end of the week. Fortunately, the plan actually calls for reading five chapters in seven days, so as of this morning I’m caught up. Along with my typical array of excuses as to why I fell behind in my bible reading plan, I think I actually have a legitimate excuse.

I got stuck in the first chapter.

Shortly after I was baptized, it was suggested I begin reading the Bible beginning in the book of John. As is the case with most books in the Bible, every time I read John I come away with new insight, and every time this happens, I think to myself, how could I have missed something so incredibly obvious all this time? I suppose the short answer is that my heart and my mind were not open to a particular truth until that time.

Many Christians can recite the first few lines of John:

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Which is not to say any of these words should become rote. There’s a lot to digest in those first five verses. In subsequent verses, John makes some pretty audacious claims about who Jesus is and who he (John) is not. In verse 29, John sees Jesus and says, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” It is not until verse 38 that we see the words of Jesus. Two of John’s disciples see Jesus and begin following him. Jesus turns around, sees them following him and what does he say?

Does he say, “I am the Lamb of God” or “I am God walking among you, fully God yet fully human?”, or “I am the only true hope of salvation and the only pathway to God?”

No.

The first recorded words of Jesus in the book of John are:

“What do you want?”

And since we know he’s Jesus, we can infer that he knows what they want. But he knows his days are numbered. Everything he says, every action he takes must mean something; must be a teachable moment. So what is Jesus really saying to them? I think he’s saying:

Tell me what you want.

Oftentimes the direct approach is best, especially when motivated by love.

Anything you need to say to someone? Maybe today’s the day.

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11 Responses to “An economy of words”

  1. JamesBrett June 27, 2011 at 8:14 am #

    it’s very possible that my reading your blog today was for a purpose. i’ve been debating with myself how direct to be with church leaders in our work here in tanzania. there are some things i’d like to say, that i believe should be said at some point. but i’m never sure if now is the best time, or if i might should further develop those relationships first. and i’m still not sure.

    but i do need to, at the very least, be working towards an ability to be concise and direct — especially about those things which matter.

    thanks.

  2. floyd June 27, 2011 at 9:00 am #

    I’m constantly struck how the simplest of things are the most profound. Great point, Jesus didn’t say, “How’s it goin’,” he said in words that you expressed very well, “Be precise in exactly your desires and thoughts.”
    If we did this a little better, there would be less colored elephants in our pretend world. Oh yeah, less hypocrites as well…

  3. Ed Blonski June 27, 2011 at 9:35 am #

    As I was reading this post, an alternative title came to mind. “Make your words count.”

    We have too little time and so much in carrying out Jesus’ last direction to us (“make disciples”) to waste time with words that we’ll have to follow up with “just kidding!”

  4. Jason June 27, 2011 at 9:44 am #

    That’ll preach, Kat. That. Will. Preach.

  5. jasonS June 27, 2011 at 1:21 pm #

    Love it, Kat. I’m with you too. I love how the simplest phrases or ideas can have such a powerful impact as directed by His Spirit. Thanks.

  6. Jennifer@GDWJ June 27, 2011 at 7:59 pm #

    Fascinating. I’m rather glad you got stuck in the first chapter of John. What a blessing to me, to hear your insights. I had never considered the first recorded words. I love how this happens — when you sit with Scripture for a while, it can fall totally fresh on the ears.

    Thank you for this.

  7. Karenzach June 28, 2011 at 4:26 am #

    Reminds me of when the Redhead was dying: I don’t have time for chit chat. Tell me something meaningful.

  8. Bob G June 28, 2011 at 10:36 pm #

    “What do you want?”

    I’ll be thinking/meditating on that for a while.

    Good stuff Kat!

  9. Michelle DeRusha June 30, 2011 at 10:38 am #

    I’m with Jennifer — those words are falling fresh on my ears this morning. I don’t think I ever stopped to ponder Jesus asking, “What do you want?”

    I’ve been thinking a lot about prayer and communication with God lately — wondering if I am truly opening myself up to Him or simply falling back on formulaic prayer because it’s what I’m used to and comfortable with. I think this might be Jesus telling me, “Talk to me, Michelle! Get direct with me! Tell me what you want.”

    You’ve got me thinking big-time this morning…

  10. kdsullivan June 30, 2011 at 10:55 am #

    Strange? Coincidence? Accident? or God’s leading that you should mention conversations with elephants when I’m helping my pastor promote his book, The Elephant In The Room..Here’s the link http://journeytoepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/28/569/ Great post

  11. jake July 4, 2011 at 12:25 am #

    John is my favorite Gospel. You should read the Message version of the first several lines. I love “and God moved into the neighborhood” absolutely brilliant. Also, I picture ANYBODY asking “What do you want?” being kind of rude about it. Which I love, because I know Jesus wasn’t rude, but knowing what they wanted and understanding what they needed as well as what they’d tell Him must have been funny. Regardless. I hate reading plans. 😉

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