I have trouble following a recipe. I mean I can read pretty well and pretty fast. But when it comes to doing exactly what the recipe calls for – I become rebellious in a hurry.
If the recipe tells me to mix the dry ingredients in a separate bowl, I find ways to get around having to wash an extra bowl. Dishes are a pain. And I have no dishwashing fairies to do them for me.
When a recipe calls for cinnamon, I might add a little extra. I am pretty sure everyone likes cinnamon. Or they should. And I measure it in the palm of my hand instead of a measuring spoon. Measuring spoons are dumb. Necessary when learning to cook but silly once you can eyeball it.
If it is a sweet recipe but doesn’t call for salt – I might add a little anyway because sweet and salty is a great combination and I believe it should be attempted whenever possible.
And if it calls for milk, I figure half and half or straight up heavy whipping cream is almost always a better option. You just can’t go wrong there.
For the life of me, I just can’t make myself adhere to baking instructions.
It is a problem.
I also learned to sew at an early age – the joys of a Mennonite upbringing – and I developed similar behavior in that arena. We regularly purchased sewing patterns to make our own clothes, but I rarely made a garment exactly as it was laid out. I found ways to not waste fabric, so that I had leftovers for another project. I found ways to embellish the design. I combined the options provided to make something completely different than the picture on the front of the pattern.
Call me creative or call me rebellious.
Both might be true. Give me a system and my soul wants to work it to the best advantage. I always try to make something better, or cheaper, or prettier, or better tasting. I grew up in a setting that exalted frugality to the point of greed. I am not proud of this, I’ve just had too much coffee today and feeling a bit confessional.
See, my Bible plan has me reading in I Samuel 15 today. You should read it; it’s a gripping story. King Saul has been instructed to attack the Amalekites and to destroy them along with the spoils of war completely. All of it. Every living thing.
But like me, Saul takes God’s instructions and tries to improve upon them. He knows full well what God instructed but he chooses to spare King Agag, as well as the choice livestock in order to sacrifice them to God.
God is highly displeased and tells the prophet, Samuel, all about it. So when Sam finally shows up and quizzes Saul on what is going on, Saul insists that he had fully followed directions. Since you can’t get a flock of sheep to shut up, Sam indignantly asks what all the bleating is about if they had truly put everything to the sword.
Sin is like that – it bleats at the most inconvenient time, giving us away.
Saul then begins his defense explaining that he had only spared them to please the people. Apparently he couldn’t say no. By the way, this is a really bad trait for a leader. If you can’t tell someone no, you can’t lead anyone anywhere. Sam is over it and interrupts Saul’s lame explanation with “Stop.”
Really just stop.
There are several issues here.
First, Saul simply didn’t fully obey. Partial obedience is always disobedience.
Second, he gave into the will of the people. He would rather curry the favor of people over God.
Third, by using the spoils of war as the sacrifice to God, Saul and the people don’t have to sacrifice any of their own livestock in worship to God. How convenient. This is nothing short of greed.
The good news is: Saul heard from God. He knew God’s instruction. He doesn’t claim to have misunderstood the plan. The bad news is: he chose to take God’s plan and embellish it. He didn’t add to it in a way that cost him more – his embellishment personally benefitted him and the people.
How often do we know exactly what God is asking but we find ourselves tweaking the plan a bit to be more palatable?
To taste a little less bitter.
To be prettier.
To be easier.
To give us an advantage.
At best, this behavior is lazy. At worst, it is arrogant. Any way you shake it, it is presumptuous. Our plans are never better than God’s. We may think we can come up with a better way. A way that will be less painful. A way that will be easier to swallow. But we are often looking for a short cut to get out of some sort of pain or personal cost. We are looking out for self.
No offense, but when God gives us a directive, he is not asking us to weigh in.
He expects us to follow him in trust.
He expects us to submit to his sovereign will.
He invites us to pay the price.
He expects us to complete the good work without our crazy ideas of improvement.
I’m pretty sure adding to a recipe or a sewing pattern isn’t a sin. But I am aware this morning of my tendencies to presume my way is better than God’s in a lot of areas of life. I am aware of my penchant for avoiding pain. When it comes to following Christ, I want to be obedient to his call regardless of the cost. I want a life free of bleating sheep.
I Samuel 15: 22-23
22“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. 23For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.