Praise the Lord!
Those who honor the Lord,
who adore God’s commandments, are truly happy!
Their descendants will be strong throughout the land.
The offspring of those who do right will be blessed;
wealth and riches will be in their houses.
Their righteousness stands forever.
They shine in the dark for others who do right.
They are merciful, compassionate, and righteous.
Those who lend generously are good people—
as are those who conduct their affairs with justice.
Yes, these sorts of people will never be shaken;
the righteous will be remembered forever!
They won’t be frightened at bad news.
Their hearts are steady, trusting in the Lord.
Their hearts are firm; they aren’t afraid.
In the end, they will witness their enemies’ defeat.
They give freely to those in need.
Their righteousness stands forever.
Their strength increases gloriously. (Common English Bible)
To live well is to obey well. Well, that’s a thought! And a deep subject it is.
It’s a matter of whether we’ll take our cues for living from S. Hiney Wells or his brother, Russ T. Wells.
S. Hiney tells us this:
“Listen, my friends, the Lord’s commands are not made for drudgery. They’re how to be happy in this here life. Obeying what God says leads to blessings of family, security, contentment, and peace. God’s never failed to keep bacon in my frying pan, folks to help me out in a pinch, and a heap of hope for when I’m lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon rut.”
Russ T. tells us:
“Well, the world ain’t shiny at all. It’s all dark and covered in rust so thick you’d think nuthin’ good’s been used fer a coon’s age.”
S. Hiney responds: “Well, Russ T., there’s certainly a powerful lot of darkness everywhere; but that don’t mean there’s no light! Even a few little lightnin’ bugs helps us to see where we are in the night.”
Russ T. retorts: “Well, S. Hiney, them little bugs don’t help none when I’m brinin’ away in pickle barrel so full of vinegar that I don’t know whether I’m in the field or the henhouse.”
S. Hiney: “Well, now, fortunately we’ve got more than a few matches in our pockets. God’s own light shines so bright that it lights up the whole earth, a world-illuminating light that keeps every old fox away from the barn.”
Russ T.: “Well, that’d be mighty nice. But if that light’s so all-powerful, I ought to be able to see my hand in front of my face! All’s I see is a bunch o’ nasty weasels lurkin’ about, givin’ me a headache bigger than the Ozark Mountain Daredevils singin’ and playin’ on my tin roof while I’m tryin’ to sleep.”
S. Hiney: “Well, Russ T., I see it every time I lend money without any expectation of interest or return. I see it in my neighbor’s generous hand and sharing her prize winnin’ tomatoes and blue ribbon apple pies. And I mostly saw it with our dear mama’s teaching to “give until it’s gone, boys, not until it hurts,” rest her soul.
Russ T.: “I obeyed mama, bless her heart; she was one of the good ones. And I certainly didn’t wanna be on her bad side!”
S. Hiney: “Me, too. Her words of affirmation felt a lot better than those times when I was disobedient and found a willow switch on my behind! So, Russ T., were you happy listening to mama and doing what she said?”
Russ T.: “Well, now, I reckon I was. Things was a lot simpler and a lot less complicated when I listened to her. Whenever I didn’t, I felt like I was a polecat in the chicken house, like I didn’t much belong.”
S. Hiney: “My heart’s calculatin’ that your true love, the Lord God, is presently waitin’ on you to shake all that rust off so that he can give you a good shine on that soul of yours. But yer goin’ to have to listen, to obey what you hear, brother.”
Maybe because we tend to be all or nothing people, we often get hung up on either being perfect or being a failure. In reality, we are neither. We’re just simple folk trying to do our best in loving and serving the Lord with an obedient heart.
Christianity takes its cues in reading the psalms from Christ’s illumination. Jesus embodied the ideals of humanity, having neither material wealth nor actual physical descendants; yet he distributed gifts more generously than anyone ever did; and he has more spiritual progeny than anybody else.
Following in the way of Christ, we live in such a way that it is possible to be:
- Poor and rich
- Compassionate and competent
- Gentle and shrewd
- Gracious and tough
- Giving and receiving
- Faithful and doubting
- Light and dark
- Happy and sad
- Vulnerable and powerful
- Confident and scared
- Brave and hesitant
- Generous and just
- Consistent and unpredictable
- Mindful and forgetful
- Weak and strong
- Loving and questioning
- Open to change and immovable
Living well means obeying well enough to see the best in others, seek the common good of everyone, and be resilient to deal with our personal foibles and the unforeseen pitfalls we sometimes experience.
What will you do when you’re in a pickle?
O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure; that, when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.