In my last post I discussed the tendency for some people to get upset at the merest suggestion of a Christian world-view within a novel that is not obviously Christian from looking at the title and/or cover. In my enthusiasm for stories that contain Christian content (it’s what I feel called to write) I fear I may have offended those Christians who write stories that do not contain overtly Christian content. This was not my intention and I would like to address this, firstly, by apologizing to anyone I may have offended and, secondly, by expanding on and clarifying my thoughts.
To this end, I want you to imagine an ordinary office somewhere. Picture a stressed-out manager. She is stressed because she needs to post a thousand letters to customers but, unfortunately, the machine that normally does this is broken. So she asks two members of staff, Malcolm and Derek, to do some overtime on Saturday to get this done, with a reward of cheesecake if they finish the task on time*. She divides the letters and envelopes evenly between Malcolm and Derek and instructs them to fold each letter and place it in an envelope. She also tells them not to seal the envelopes or put stamps on them. She tells them to do as many as they can while she goes to the local printer to pick up some leaflets.
Malcolm does as instructed. He takes a letter, folds it into thirds, and places it inside an envelope. He puts the filled envelope to one side and repeats the process. After a while he figures it will be quicker if he folds ten letters at a time and then separates them before putting each in an envelope.
Derek, however, wants to impress his manager. He decides that he can save her a lot of time by sealing the envelope and placing a stamp on it. He works quickly to try to keep up with Malcolm, all the time smiling to himself at the thought of how happy his manager will be. He soon falls behind, however, because he does not adopt Malcolm’s method of folding ten letters at a time. He rushes to catch up, folding the letters untidily and creasing the envelopes.
By the time the manager returns five hours later, Malcolm has finished the task she set them. She inspects his tidy stack of neatly filled envelopes and nods approvingly. She then looks at Derek’s messy pile of filled, sealed and stamped envelopes. Derek stands there, looking very pleased with himself. His face is moist from the effort and he is a little out of breath.
“I thought I would save you time,” he beams.
She holds out the pile of leaflets she has just purchased at the printer. “I needed you to put these inside the envelopes. That’s why I told you not to seal them.”
“But I saved you time by putting stamps on, didn’t I?”
She shakes her head. “They need to go out to many different countries. Some will have more postage than others. Didn’t you see the addresses?”
Derek’s smile has now slipped from his face. “I was trying to save you time. I wanted to help. I worked so hard. . . .”
Later that year a promotion opportunity comes up. Derek appeared to show more initiative during the envelope stuffing episode, but who do you think the manager is going to promote? And did Derek really show more initiative? Malcolm also showed initiative by folding ten letters at a time, but he did so while keeping within the limits of what he was instructed to do. Personally, I think Malcolm will get the promotion.
One scripture that stands out for me is 1 Samuel 15:22. Saul was ordered by God to destroy the Amalekites. Saul marched on Amalek and did just this, but he spared the king and kept the best of the sheep and cattle, supposedly to offer as a sacrifice to God. “And Samuel said, Hath 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 hearken than the fat of rams.” As a result of Saul’s disobedience, God did not recognize him as the king of Israel.
In Matthew 7:21, Jesus says: Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
To me, these scriptures sum up how we should serve God. So often we run away with our own enthusiasm, we get so carried away with what we want to do, that we forget to stop and ask God what He wants us to do. I believe that if God has called us to write fiction with strong Christian content, then that is what we should be doing. However, if He has called us to write stories for the secular market with no obvious Christian content, then that is where we should be directing all our energy, initiative, and enthusiasm.
Obedience before sacrifice. That’s the key. We should be writing what God has called us to write, and doing it to the best of our abilities in order to serve Him.
*Notice how I subtly snuck a mention of cheesecake in there? I know, it’s a gift.