Don't Tell Me What I Can't Do - Fourth Sunday of Matthew

Time for another confession: I was a huge fan of LOST.

Even bigger confession: I liked the ending.

That’s a pretty controversial view among LOST fans. In fact, there is a significant amount of disagreement about the show and its purpose, but I hope that if there’s one thing that we can all agree upon, it’s that the most important thing ever said in its six seasons was this:

Dont tell me what I cant do.

Never has one short line expressed so much about humanity. About me.

The world tells us we can do whatever we want, whenever we want, and that there are no (and should be no) real consequences for our choices.

You cant touch that stove without getting burned.  Oh no?  Watch me!

You cant buy something you cant afford. Oh no? Ill use my credit card.

You cant look healthy and eat McDonalds every day. Oh no? How about a tummy tuck?

Many of us (most of us?) don’t want to face our limits, and we certainly don’t want to be told “no.” That’s one reason we struggle with authority, finding rebellious (and frequently disastrous) ways to shake our fists at The Man (whoever The Man may be) and say, “Dont tell me what I cant do.

We want to have our cake, eat it, and look skinny doing it.

But that’s just not how the world works. In real life, there are consequences for actions, and they often hurt. And that’s why authorities (at least good authorities) develop, to steer us away from the terrible choices that lead to crippling debt, clogged arteries, and second-degree burns. 

Yet we wrestle with authority because we dont want someone to tell us what we cant do.

This seems to be deeply rooted in humanity. Even my 4-year-old is an expert at refusing to do what those in charge ask, no matter how reasonable it may be (“sorry, we can’t drive to the store until you get in your car seat; you’re four”). It’s almost an impulse, a knee-jerk reaction when someone gives us a rule: we resist it.

Even from the beginning, Adam and Eve couldn’t manage to abide the one lousy commandment they were given. Instead, they bought the deception of the evil one because, ultimately, they didnt trust that God knew better.

When the serpent planted in their heads that perhaps God doesnt want whats best for them, they took matters into their own hands, trusting their own authority instead of Gods.

God didn’t simply want obedience; He wanted to protect Adam and Eve from the death that would follow after they separated themselves from Him. Too bad they didn’t listen.

Too bad I don’t listen.

Oh, how often I emulate their rebellion! Show me a list of God’s commands, and I’ll show you a list of things I have done or left undone.

Dont be anxious,” Christ commands (Matt. 6:25). Okay, Jesus, but have you ever heard of student loans?

Judge not, the Lord dictates (Matt. 7:1). Okay, Jesus, but have you seen that guys hairstyle?

Love your enemies, God says (Matt. 5:44). Okay, Jesus, but did you hear what she said to me?

The reality of these things is that they are commandments. “Don’t be anxious” is a direct command from God, to trust that He will act to take care of those whom He loves, and yet, all too often, I believe that God doesnt mean it. So I resist Him, and I choose to worry instead. I choose to take matters into my own hands. 

Because, if I’m honest, I dont trust Him.

That brings us to this Sunday’s Gospel reading, in which the servant of a centurion is dying. The centurion, a Gentile, comes to Christ to request healing on behalf of his servant, and when Christ says He will come to the man’s home, the centurion protests:

Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, Go, and he goes, and to another, Come, and he comes, and to my slave, Do this, and he does it. (Matt. 8:8-9)

For the centurion, a man who exists in a world where authority has clout, Christs mere word is sufficient to heal his servant. He recognizes Christ for who He is, and he trusts that Christ’s authority is supreme.

Christ marvels at this trust, saying “Truly, I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith” (Matt. 8:10). After all, the centurion was willing to bet his servants life on Christ.

But are we willing to bet our own? Or do we think we know better? When Christ tells us to take up the cross and to follow Him, do we take Him at His word?

The world would have us pursue our own pleasure and refuse to take direction from anyone besides ourselves, offering us the freedom of disobedience (#YOLO). Yet this is a false freedom, one that leads to the bondage of sin and addiction and, ultimately, death. 

We forget that, when God tells us no, it’s not for His sake; it’s for our sake.  

We forget that, when we turn away from Christ, we are betting our lives on it.  Because Christ’s commandments are unto life, though the enemy often deceives us into resisting them. We resist Christ because we are afraid that maybe He doesn’t have our best interest in mind.

But this is where we are called to emulate the faith of the centurion and to trust that when Christ commands us (whether it’s about tithing, fasting, or abstinence) He gives us marching orders that are unto life.

God’s “no” is meant to steer us away from death and into the eternal “yes” of His Kingdom.

And why would we want to resist that?

Photo Credits:

Strong-Willed Kid: crimfants via Compfight cc

National Debt: Wikimedia Commons

Saluting Kid: marcus_jb1973 via Compfight cc

Christian is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM. He is a husband, father, mover, shaker, coffee drinker, sandal wearer, and CrossFitter. Christian has his MA from Azusa Pacific University in Marriage and Family Therapy and is working toward a second MA in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary. Christian and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona.


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