"These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give." Matthew 10:5-8
Enter lots of workplaces and, no matter what business is being conducted, you’ll find that someone has posted a list of do’s and don’ts. We spend our childhoods anticipating a time when there will be no one telling us what to do, only to find that rules and directions never go away. There’s always someone giving orders, restricting our behavior, and posting signs to make sure we don’t forget to behave ourselves.
There are lots of reasons that people make lists or signs and hang them for all to see. Perhaps there was an accident as a result of someone’s carelessness with a piece of equipment. Maybe something was damaged or contaminated because of improper handling. It might be that someone goofed, and instead of the offender being directly reprimanded, it just seems more diplomatic to post signs and indirectly address everyone. Sometimes the “to do” or “don’t do” lists are just reminders of what steps to follow in case something suddenly malfunctions. The hastily scribbled signs that are full of underlines and exclamation points are the best. They imply that someone is a bit upset, and whatever happened had better not happen again. “Please wash your hands” "Use this door" "No Smoking" "All Employees Must Sign In" "Authorized Personnel Only" "Don’t Even Think of Parking Here!" EVERYWHERE there are rules and directions to govern our actions.
When conditions are set, there are reasons. When Jesus addressed his disciples, he gave them very specific instructions. The Bible doesn’t say that they challenged Jesus, or asked why they couldn’t venture out of their immediate area or follow their own script. Jesus didn’t want them to just rush out in all directions. There was a plan of action that had to be followed. Most of all there was and is a God to represent. The disciples could not be anxious and take it upon themselves to go outside of the boundaries set by Christ, or perform duties outside of the ones he specified. The instructions Jesus gave didn’t imply that the disciples were a bunch of dummies who couldn’t think for themselves. Jesus wasn’t being condescending. It seems to me that he demonstrated great love for them by taking the time to be so specific. They were given an opportunity to prove themselves teachable, dependable and committed. They were demonstrating that they could be trusted, and could handle such an important task.
Every now and then, even the most competent among us need a little refresher that helps us to perform more efficiently. We get careless sometimes, cocky even- especially if we’ve been doing a particular job for a long time. We think we can do it in our deepest sleep. We don’t like the idea of someone evaluating us or looking over our shoulders. We’re anointed right? We’ll just instinctively know what to do, won’t we?
It’s easy to get ahead of ourselves as we serve. We hear instructions, rules, requirements and suggestions and sometimes think we don’t need them. We minimize their importance, are offended by how simple they seem, or decide they don’t apply to us. Then, we feel free to act independently, establish our own methods and plans, and wonder why things don’t work.
Sometimes we allow ourselves to be overwhelmed and decide that the instructions we are given are too hard, unfair, or deliberately designed so that we can’t possibly live up to them. This causes us to modify our behavior; sabotage our potential, or walk away from our assignments. Even when we’re called, anointed and appointed, do we really have to be told where to go, what to do, who to approach, what to say, and how to behave? Do we still need directions? Absolutely.
As servants we have to listen. We have to pay attention. We have to be receptive to instructions, carry them out, and not embellish. Any bright ideas we have, no matter how wonderful, are shaky at best if they deviate from the instructions we are given.