We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Hebrews 5:11-14
“FINE!” said my counterpart across the table, “But just know that this isn’t our only job. We do a lot more than this and if we don’t get your requests completed very quickly it’s because we are busy! So don’t bug us over and over about it!” Her response was petulant and childish, and while that’s not what she said verbatim, it was certainly the gist.
This explosion kind of caught me off-guard, because all that I was asking to be done was for this woman’s office to provide my office with a more streamlined approach to getting a specific service done. My request was simple; it decreased their workload, decreased our workload, and it offered a resolution to an uneasy relationship that had existed for years between her office and mine. However, it required: 1) change, 2) her to admit that some of the things in her processes weren’t helpful, and 3) her to admit that I had a good idea. These three things would’ve stopped her from ever acquiescing if other people, of a higher position than herself, hadn’t been in the room to direct her to do it.
It was rather sad to see her melt down in such a way. It’s true that she and I had never seen eye to eye on very much of anything, and so I wasn’t too concerned with whether she looked silly or not – human nature is human nature, after all. (Maybe I should do some more praying about that?) But I wasn’t trying to exasperate her or hurt her feelings either. I just said what needed to be said and presented my case. That she broke down and struck out resentfully says more about her than the situation warranted for her to reveal. I suppose she is closing in on 60 years old, but she acted like a 9 year-old: “FINE! I’ll clean my room, but I won’t do it quickly or nicely!”
The sad part is that we are all like this at times. There are just things we don’t want to do. We know they might be good for us. We know they might be right. We may even know that we will be happy that we did them once they are done. But it doesn’t change the fact that it will require: 1) change, 2) for us to admit that some of the things we want to do aren’t good for us, and 3) to admit that somebody – even God Almighty – might know something we don’t. That also is human nature: not just lacking care (like I may have done in that encounter), but also just wanting to believe that we know it all.
The funniest (and scariest) thing about that bit of human nature (thinking that we know it all) is that it presupposes some sort of maturity; as if we’ve grown in wisdom to such a point that guidance from others is unnecessary. And yet, when the chips are down and the fallout from our own decisions starts to accumulate, we often lash out in extremely juvenile ways. Petulance springs from us irrepressibly and thereby reveals something that we may not have even been aware was alive in us: childishness, immaturity and pettiness – those very things we presupposed were outgrown.
So, why is this the case? Why do we think ourselves mature when we’re so obviously not? Why do we suffer from these pitiful childish indignities? The answer, I think, is in the Hebrews Writer’s (hereafter just called, “the Writer”) words above.
The previous four and a half chapters had been a beautiful defense of the Messianic bona fides of Jesus of Nazareth. In other words, it was clear that Jesus was the Messiah whom the Jews had been awaiting because He had not only fulfilled scriptural prophecies, but He had also tied them all together in a way no man could have ever foreseen, much less planned. The Hebrews to whom the Writer pens his treatise knew these scriptures and these histories and the promises of God … and yet they never saw how it all could come together. Though Jesus came to earth teaching with authority and healing every sickness, His humility and lowliness didn’t match their magisterial and soldierly expectations … and so they missed the point entirely. The words in the scriptures were clear, but their minds weren’t. They searched the scriptures for knowledge of the Messiah, but did it with preconceived notions of what the Messiah would be. They read into the words of God what the heart of men desired.
Which brings me back to my point about maturity: Maturity is shown when one seeks the truth earnestly, is devoted to discipline with the word, and then responds with humility to something which doesn’t fit one’s preconceived notions. In other words, the complete opposite of what the Hebrews had done with the prophesies about the Messiah.
Here’s my paraphrase of Hebrews 5:11-14,
I want to tell you so much more! But you just aren’t ready for it. In fact, you should already know this stuff. Yet you missed the important things because you haven’t grown up! And now you can’t do what God wants you to do – you can’t know what God wants you to know, because you have to learn what you should’ve learned a long time ago! Milk is for babies and solid food is for the mature. You’re proving that you are babies because you can’t handle the solid food. Why can’t you handle the solid food? Because you’ve never been disciplined and humble enough to seek the truth!
If I’m honest, this passage scares me to death! How many times have I searched the scriptures in order to prove a point instead of to find the truth? How many times have I only picked up the word of God when it is convenient to me? How many times have I finally stumbled on a truth I didn’t want to know, only to yell petulantly, “Alright already! I’ll do it! But I won’t like it and I won’t do it gladly!”
And how much more of the glorious mysteries of God might have been revealed to me by now if I had just been honest in my dedication and humble in my spirit?
I am certain that the solid food of God is incredible – like having a steak instead of pureed peas and carrots – and I want so badly to taste it. Yet, if I’m honest, I have to admit that I’m so weak and arrogant that I need constantly to be reminded of the elementary truths of God. I want to grow and I want to mature, but I lack the discipline to do it. And every day that goes by as I stumble about with a bad attitude and a petulant heart is a day of mysteries unrevealed and glories unseen.
I need to make a dedication to maturity. I need to pledge anew to discipline and humility. I need to grow, because I need to know, because I need to show, what it means to follow. So help me, Lord, every day.
Will you join me?
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 1 Corinthians 13:11
So Christ Himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip His people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Then we will not be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ. Ephesians 4:11-15