THE CHALLENGE OF CHECK-BOX CHRISTIANITY
There are people that make their entire living in the realm of organization. They have blogs, websites, tools, containers, and some even have TV shows. All this exists to help people be more productive with their time. I must admit that I'm not the most organized person. When I was in college, I knew a fella that had time on his calendar for a scheduled bathroom break. That will never be me. I see the value in planning your day for certain, but I have a tough time sticking to a rigid schedule. On the other end of the spectrum of organization, are people who have no organization at all. These are the ones that always go with whatever their desire of the moment may be. “I'm hungry - let's eat something.” “I'm tired - I'll take a nap.” Without any schedule at all, nothing would ever get done. If one lives life only doing what they feel like, then they end up destitute. There are responsibilities we have in life as a member of a community or society in general - Responsibility to our family, our church, and most importantly to God. As the old saying goes, “if you fail to plan - you plan to fail.” I tend to make a list of things to accomplish and chip away at it throughout the day. The problem with this method, however, is that things that I don't get done end up pushed to the next day, then the next, until entirely too much time has elapsed, and I still have not accomplished several tasks. That certainly should change, but to what degree?
The Categories of “To Do”
On a scale of “freewheeling” to “strict scheduling”, I'd put myself to the left of center. I do almost nothing out of habit. Even when I try to start habits, they never stick around for long; However, there are things in my life that I do always. These things are not particular activities, but rather a category of activities. For example, work meetings will always be attended. Other people depend on my attendance at meetings, so these things must be done and must be done at the time specified. I always do these things, so let's call this category “must do”. This category pretty much consists of anything I need to do that involves others.
The second category let's label “need to do”. This category includes things I need to do for myself and others including projects around the house. For example, buying new tires from my truck, fixing the faucet in the spare bathroom, taking stuff in the garage to the dump, etc. These things truly need to be done and I would be better off if they were completed as well as others around me.
“Things I should do” make up the third category. This includes things that generally only impact me, such as taking vitamins, planning for meals, checking on friends and neighbors, calling my parents, etc. If I were in the habit of doing these things in this category, my life would certainly be much improved. But I don't do them. I can't. Sure, it's just a matter of making myself form new habits, right? I've tried. I'll be good for a few days, maybe even a week, but the old laziness takes back over soon enough. Is not self-discipline a fruit of the Spirit? I certainly need to ask for more of it. This, however, is where the problem begins.
The “Check-box” Mentality
When we begin to get organized with our daily schedules, we tend to make a “to do” list with a checkbox in front of each bullet. Organizational gurus will extol the sense of accomplishment you receive by physically completing and marking off tasks on your list. Any preacher will tell you that you should read your Bible and pray every day and that the best time for a quiet time with God is first thing in the morning. So, the schedule gets created with your “must do”, “need to do”, and “should do” list with checkmarks in front of them. At this point we most likely will turn to social media for accountability partners for these tasks that we must complete every day. Now we have an external pressure to accomplish the tasks on our new To Do List. This is where we enter the danger zone. For example, let's take a Bible reading plan.
When I read the Word, I like to study it. I have my tools at the ready. A couple of commentaries, a handful of study Bibles, and Greek and Hebrew lexicons. Now, there are also times I re-read a passage without all this, and I'll read the whole book or several chapters. But my point is, I enjoy spending quality time in the Word. I like to read intentionally. Many folks I know on the other end of the organizational spectrum do not see things the same way. They get to the end of the day and feel a great sense of accomplishment with all the boxes they have checked as complete. They woke up this morning, opened their Bible app, read the assigned passages in the “read the Bible in a year” plan and checked the box. I know several folks who have (on the app) read the entire Bible all the way through two or three times but can't tell you anything it says and certainly don't live like they can. The Word of God wasn't meant to be read-only, it was meant to be consumed, imbibed, ingested, masticated, and ruminated. The Holy Bible is the inerrant, infallible, inspired, living Word of God. God the Father and God the Son tell us over and again in the Word to do what they say. This command isn't a “should do” or a “need to do” - this is a “MUST DO!” The call to holiness is clear. “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matthew 7: 14 NASB
But I'm doing…
There's nothing wrong with being organized. Organization is a big part of self-discipline. However, we must live our Christian life intentionally. The problem with “Checkbox Christianity” is that you'll never grasp the depth and richness of the glory of God if you're only doing things for the sake of doing them. If you go to church on Sunday morning but are volunteering somewhere during the message and never go back to hear it, what have you gained? “Went to church on Sunday morning – check”. If your small group Bible study meets at Topgolf weekly but you never studied the Bible: “Church Bible study – check!” If you happen to mention Jesus to a coworker at happy hour: “witness to someone today – check!” If I listen to the contemporary Christian radio on my way to and from work: “worship time – check!”
James said, “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” (James 2:17 NASB) but the entirety of the Bible teaches us that “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not from yourselves; it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NASB) So by this we see that works without faith gets you absolutely nowhere. You’ll say, “but I believe and confess” and James (Jesus’s brother) says “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.” (James 2:19 NASB)
It seems it's a popular thing today to look at ourselves and judge our faith by what we accomplished in each day. What church we go to. The celebrity pastor we listen to. The boxes we check. Activities rather than actions. However, a saved person is a changed person. Your old heart of stone is gone and you've received a new heart of flesh. We are no longer a child of the devil - we have been adopted into God's family. We are Co-heirs with Christ - It's not only that our new choice of music for the soundtrack of our day has changed. Are you checking boxes or are you living a transformed life? Are you a disciple of Christ? Are you denying yourself, picking up your cross, and following Him? Check yourselves to be sure you're in the faith (II Corinthians 13:5) Jesus said, “If you love me, you'll keep my commandments.” (John 14: 15) Scripture is plain on who will and who will not inherit the Kingdom of God.