Expecting Easy in the Land of the Curse

This past Sunday Night, I preached from Genesis 3:1-7 and addressed the idea of our having an active enemy. (For those of you with insomnia, audio is here.) However, in prepping for that sermon, I happened to read the rest of the chapter. You know, in the interest of context.

Getting to the end of the chapter, something became clearer to me than it has been before. Let me walk you to that point:

Often, especially here on this blog, we lament the current state of affairs. We have fussed and fumed across the miles about:

1. The inability of Southern Baptists to get along with each other. You want to narrow down our comment stream into a short burst? That’s it. We do not get along, and we do not get along about why we do not get along. We argue theology. We argue sports. We argue mixed-martial-arts. (Admittedly, the first time I read that post I misread it as mixed-marital-arts and then just could not take any of it seriously.) And we argue. Who was doing this and why? Why not this, why that, and so on, and so forth.

We argue, and then along comes someone who says “Can we not make this easier?”

2. We have fumed about the state of affairs in this nation. We would all like a welcoming country whereby people may legally come in however they please, buy guns but have no violence, get healthcare that is affordable and effective and accessible but not forced by anyone, pay appropriate but not too high taxes, get a quality education that offends no one and is cheap, vote intelligently but only once per election, and all speak English while retaining their cultural heritage. We want racial harmony without apologies, gender equality without strife and with differing views on certain issues, and religious tolerance without having to allow the other guy to say anything.

And on top of that,”We want this done the easy way!”

3. We have fussed about our churches. We want instant disciples (just add water!) We want automatic long-term marriages. We want perfect kids with their own personalities and no resentments. We want deacons that know how to serve, pastors that know how to serve, and teachers that know how to teach. We want Vacation Bible School to feel like a vacation and mission trips that end with a glorious “Mission Accomplished!” sentiment.

After all,”That should be easy!”

Except expecting easy is the exact opposite of what we find in the Word of God. Take your Bible and look at Genesis 3:17-19. Part of the impact of sin is that life stopped being easy. We live in a cursed land. Things are not so easy as they should be.

Yet we seem to want them that way. We want a Sunday School program that disciples and evangelizes and takes 5 minutes to prepare. We want sermons that flow from our mouths without passing through our hearts.

We want to put up a sign that says “Bible gathering at the coffee shop” and see those who are far from God simply flock in. We want the old ladies to love us and the young men to respect us. We want to tell the kids who shout racial slurs in the middle of our outreach times to hear the Gospel and our love for them and see them change instantly from that.

We want it easy.

Yet whatever else we got from Adam, we definitely received this: the Land of the Curse. The earth beneath our feet is cursed. Not in that funky sci-fi movie manner, but in a very real way. Nothing comes easy that should come easy.

Start with the basics:

1. Food does not come easily from the ground. Believe me. I pastor farmers and many of them will tell you that 30 years of agribusiness and science and GMO and whatever else, and plants do not grow as well as they did 30 years ago. True, some of them will produce better if they grow, but getting them to grow? Harder than ever. That’s in just 30 years.

And then you throw modern economics and modern architecture on top of it, and food is harder to come by. Take the news from Louisiana last week: a grocery store chain was cited by the government for selling milk too cheaply at $2.99 a gallon. That’s right. I remember my parents’ sighs when they had to start paying $1.99 a gallon. Even those of you who do not directly raise a crop put more sweat out for less food than ever before.

Move up from there:

2. Look at human relationships. Adam and Eve get along. There’s nothing to fight over and no hidden motives to seek. Nothing is hidden between them. Now, consider us. Some of you are reading this, looking for the ulterior hook. You either want to agree and help defend or you are in the mood to pounce. It is harder and harder to build those relationships than it ever has been–and social media hurts at least as much as it helps. I’ll be traveling, Lord willing, with a few other SBCVoices people in a month. I am assuming we’ll get along, but we may not. We do not actually know each other. And the problems consist all the way to husband and wife, parents and children. We see the destruction, and it starts in Eden.

Now, take a stretch with me:

3. Gander over at Matthew 13. Jesus speaks of scattering the seed of the word onto the ground of the world. Then He describes the results. Some fell on good ground and grew. Some fell on bad ground and did not grow. Why is there bad ground? Because of the curse.

Guess what? The Cursed Land extends to the spiritual as well. It is harder to see those seeds grow the farther we get from those days. And it is more and more crucial that we try, because the harvest is coming—and that is not good for those who have not spouted.

So, then, what do we do?

We actually solve this in reverse order:

3. We strive to break the ground up and push hard to get more seed out there. We have one advantage over the farmer: we will not run out of seed as long as we draw breath. Spread the Word. Plant Bibles here, there, and everywhere. Get the seed out there. And meanwhile, many of us need to beat our Baptist swords into plowshares and put more effort into breaking up ground and less effort into slashing each other. You get one hardened piece of metal. What are you using it for?

2. As we draw nearer to the Lord Jesus Christ and see His word planted in our hearts, we also see it planted in other hearts. We will find that, because we trust God, we learn to trust each other. Not because we do not fail but because when we do, both the failure and the one who has been failed fall on God for support. As we see the Word grow and bear fruit, we do less to build barriers between us and others, and we interact more freely together.

1. Now, we cannot make the corn grow in a drought just by reading the Word. Yet we can see this: the more the Word takes root in our hearts, the more we put our effort into plowing the ground instead of fighting, the better we are able to connect with our fellow Believers and the rest of humanity. And as that Word grows, we find our priorities coming more in line with God’s priorities and our work changes. Our spending changes. Our efforts change. And perhaps, though milk is still too high (honestly, are the cows getting paid more? I bet they get the same weight in food they have for years!) the workload eases. Because we have community to share the strain. Because we have more concern that our neighbors eat than that we have 200 channels to choose from.

Where does it start? When we stop fighting about trifles and start plowing the ground, making the opportunity for the seed to grow in our hearts and in the hearts of others.

That will not be easy. What do we expect? We live in the land of the curse. Nothing is easy but going with the curse.

And that cannot be our choice.

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Bruce H. says

    Well stated. Thanks.

    It takes iron to sharpen iron. If we don’t disagree sometimes we seldom reinforce and deepen our own faith.

  2. Truth Unites... and Divides says

    “And meanwhile, many of us need to beat our Baptist swords into plowshares and put more effort into breaking up ground and less effort into slashing each other. You get one hardened piece of metal. What are you using it for?”

    Hoping to upgrade it into a decent gun or rifle. Bringing a sword or knife to a gunfight is not the proper way to surrender. ;-)

    But seriously, this was an easy article to agree with.

  3. Jess Alford says

    Doug Hibbard,

    The nerve of some people, where did you get these old fashion ideas.
    Doug, don’t you know we have moved up from the Bible. This is a new age. We have our own beliefs. How dare you to try to pull a fast one on us by using an out dated book. We are too smart for that. Better luck next time.

    Outstanding Post, Thank you.

  4. Jess Alford says

    Doug Hibbard,

    I’m not done with you yet. Don’t you know just because the Bible says something it is not what it means, It could have a totally different meaning. Don’t you know the scripture is incorrect unless it makes us feel good about ourselves.

    Keep up the good work, God bless you.

  5. says

    Doug, are you confessing that your sermons are a cure for insomnia? :)

    Can I suggest that one of the ways we try to ‘make it easy’ (metaphorically speaking) is to insist that that piece of metal must always be a sword, or must always be a plowshare? That’s easier than acknowledging being dependent on God to know when to sharpen, and when to plow (though I’ll agree we need to see a lot less sharpening/fighting than we see now).

    • Doug Hibbard says

      Certainly we make an either/or out of a lot of things that are instead “A time for this, a time for that….”

      However, nowhere in Scripture do I see that we are to sword-up after our own brothers in Christ. Which often appears to be our behavior: internal battles over subpoint 6 of subparagraph c of subsection iv of page 589 of volume 3 of our standard systematized theological confession of faith.

      Meanwhile, that effort regarding whether the myriad of angels dancing on the head of a pin are doing the foxtrot and not the waltz could have been better spent making plain to the lost the love of Christ or plain to a growing Christian the value of Scripture.

      One observation I would make: I come post-CR in the SBC. I have never had a seminary professor or Baptist college professor, a Sunday School lesson or a Broadman/Holman/Lifeway book, ever cut at the foundation of an inerrant Scripture. I have seen a great deal of energy spilt over renaming Baptist Book Stores or reorganizing the entity or any of a dozen issues that are neither about the truth of Scripture nor the core of the Gospel. I have sat and seen men strive to remove professors from teaching who suggested that Solomon was possibly not the final editor of Ecclesiastes or that a final editor added the part of Deuteronomy recording Moses’ death, rather than Moses writing that in inspired prophecy. I have seen deacons attack pastors over a striping parking lots straight instead of diagonal.

      In short, I read in history books where Baptists had to fight with others to clean house, but I have in seen in my life where Baptists were fighting over whether to wash in the left-hand sink and rinse in the right or vice-versa. So, I have a different view of when the sword is necessary, because I have seen it misused more than used helpfully.

      So, yes, there is absolutely the need to be dependent on God to know when to do what. I’m inclined, though, to think we ought to store it as a plowshare and only turn it into a sword when the need is evident. Because we have one life and a limited amount of time and energy.

      • says

        Argh. I think I pretty much agree with you, I just botched up trying to tie together your ‘piece of metal/swords/plowshares’ point with Bruce H’s ‘iron sharpens iron’ point.

        • Doug Hibbard says

          I see what you’re saying, though: don’t make a “never” out of a “sometimes” or an “always” out of an “often.”

  6. says

    Only sin seems easy in this world, but that is, of course, a big fat lie. I remember the day the short cut to school looked so easy and attractive, and yet Grandma had said, “Don’t take the short cut. Bob Todd’s old dog will get you.” Her most useless statement that day was, “I told you so.” She really didn’t need to say that, because I had got the point, a whole dog’s mouth full of sharp points, teeth, that tore a plug out of my left thigh.

    Going up and down long rows of cotton, chopping or picking, is not easy either. But the payoff lies years in the future, when you become willing to make the effort, put forth the labor, spend the time, even years, gathering the evidence, the information, in order to understand and grasp what God really says and reveals in His word to help His people.

  7. Jess Alford says

    dr. james willingham,

    Sir, I love to read what you write. I have met a couple of people like you.
    I could talk with them all day and never get tired. God bless you.

  8. Randall Cofield says

    “No more let sin and sorrow reign, nor thorns infest the ground;
    He comes to make His blessings flow far as the Curse is found.”

    In honor of the Captain of our salvation:

    2Ti 2:3 You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

    Endure “hard”
    Study “hard”
    Preach “hard”
    Plant “hard”
    Pray “hard”
    Fight “hard”
    Soldier “hard”

    We can take our ease when we have gotten up on the walls of the New Jerusalem….

    ‘Til then, it ain’t supposed to be easy.

    Thanks for an excellent post, Doug.

  9. says

    So this is why my easy button doesn’t work. Here I thought it was just broken and I was going to complain to Staples that I got a defective one.

    Good post, brother. Very well said indeed.