The Danger of Shortcuts

Why take the long way when a shortcut is available? If the goal is to get from point A to point B in the quickest way, then the shortcut is the way to go.

Why drive an extra 30 miles when another road will get you to your destination more directly? Why [work] a long division problem on paper when a calculator will give you the answer in a second? Why read all 500+ pages of Moby Dick when the Cliffs Notes [version] is about one-tenth of that? Why learn a foreign language when you could hire a translator?

But think of these shortcuts as well: Why eat a pizza when you could put it into a blender, turn it into a liquid, and then send it directly to your stomach through a feeding tube? Why work at one job for many years when another job (for which you were qualified or of which you were capable) might pay you more money? Why go to the trouble of picking up a napkin to wipe your mouth when the sleeve of your shirt is already near to you? Why go to a concert when you can buy the album? Or why study for a test when you could probably cheat and not get caught?

Taking the shortcut often seems like a common-sense thing to do, and it is certainly often the easier thing to do, but we all realize that there are times when the shortcut is not the best way to go. Why not? Because the shortcut sometimes is more dangerous, or it causes you to miss good or important things. Someone has said, "There are no shortcuts to anyplace worth going." Sometimes, the value of what we do does not lie only in the destination or goal, but also in the journey [that] it takes to get there. What we learn and experience on the way to our goal is important, too.

Why not put the pizza into a blender and take it via a feeding tube? Because you would miss the wonderful taste of the pizza! Why work at a job that pays less than another job? Because your job gives you satisfaction and a feeling of usefulness and service that the other job could not provide, and that is more important than the extra money [that] you could earn at the other job. Why not just wipe your mouth on your sleeve? Because it makes you unfit for the company of others, and it is far more important to enjoy a pleasant meal with your friends than it is to take the easy way to wipe your mouth. Why go to the concert instead of simply buying the album? Because the live performance is often more impactful, more impressive, and more interesting in several ways. And why not cheat on a test? Because it is deceptive, dishonest, and morally wrong. Besides, you don't learn anything that way.

The truth is, there are many situations in life where taking the shortcut is the worst thing to do. In Matthew 4:8-9, Jesus was confronted with the option to take a shortcut: "Again) the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms oj the world and their glory)' and he said to Him) 'All these things I will give You) if You fall down and worship me", Of course, Jesus would eventually become King of kings and Lord of lords anyway, and I think Satan knew it (the Old Testament Scriptures predicted it, and Satan knew the Scriptures - at least superficially - as his quotation in verse 6 shows). But Jesus had to go through the route of the cross to get there. Satan was offering him a shortcut, as it were ... an easier way to attainglory and power. Of course, Jesus refused. Why? Because there was the matter of faithfulness to God's will, and that was important. How Jesus achieved his great Lordship was just as important as the fact that he achieved it.

Here are some more: Why read my Bible when the preacher will tell me what it says? Why learn all the background information about the Biblical stories when I can just pick up the Bible and read it? Why go to the worship services or Bible classes when I can read my Bible at home?

Many Christians travel down these shortcuts. Yet, like our illustrations above, these shortcuts are actually not advantageous at all. In fact, they can be downright harmful.

Why not just let the preacher tell me what the Bible says? Because the Bible is not just a book to be learned. It is a book to be used; it is a book to be lived Relying on someone else for tile word of God keeps you weak and vulnerable. When temptation or hardship comes, you will need to rely upon your OJVll faith. But if you have entrusted the job of learning the Bible and knowing its commands to someone else, then you yourself will be woefully unprepared for the storms of life. It might be easier to leave the reading and studying to someone else, but taking the "long way" is the only way to strengthen yourself for the fight.

Why do I have to go to all the trouble of learning the backgrounds and contexts of the Biblical books? Because reading the Bible without learning the contexts in which all its statements were made and it stories happened opens the door to reading those things incorrectly. Yes, the easy way is to just pick it up and read it as if it were written yesterday, but such a procedure will cause you to read with incorrect impressions. It is only when we have gone the "long way" of learning the original contexts of the Biblical material that we begin to understand it accurately and correctly.

And why can't I just study my Bible at home? Why go to the assemblies? Because the assembling of the church encourages us in a way that nothing else does. We encourage each oilier by the public show of our faith and love for God (Hebrews 10.24). In short, the assembly provides a personal fellowship with oilier saints that you cannot get from just reading your Bible at home.

Could God just "snap His fingers" and make wicked people become righteous? Couldn't he simply say the word and bring a bunch of people to heaven? Of course. But he does not and will not. Why? Because God is interested not only in our getting home to heaven, but also in what we become on our way there. God wants us to go the long route that involves challenge, change, testing, endurance, and the demonstration of our faithfulness. Sure, there might be an easier way - a "shortcut" - for God to get us to heaven, but there is not a better way.

---David McClister; Christian Living
(Palmetto, FL) February 10, 2013

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