E-pistle August 13

The Messages We Send

I am writing from Michigan where I am getting to know grandson Caleb up close and personal.  He is, of course, the most remarkable child ever born, though I may be a bit biased in my assessment.  Becky and I will be in worship on Sunday to explain our reasons for thinking so highly of our grandson if you’d like to hear them.

But enough of that.

As I was driving through Ann Arbor and getting very close to my destination, I passed a recent model Cadillac Escalade. For those of you who don’t know, a Cadillac Escalade is a Chevy Suburban (large SUV) with lots of doo-dads and chrome to justify its $75,000 price tag.  This particular Escalade was very Escalade-ish.  You could buy a really decent used car for the price of its wheels alone.

But what caught my eye and got me to thinking was the personalized license plate on the Escalade. “Tithing” it read. 

I started to jump to all sorts of conclusions, but remembered, just in time, that it’s always best to look before jumping.  I don’t know the driver of the tithing Escalade, I don’t know his  take on the Old Testament mandate for giving 10% as an offering to God and the New Testament assumption of generous and cheerful giving.

There’s a good chance that many of the tither’s fellow motorists never notice his license plate and if they do, they may not know that increasingly unfamiliar biblical word (let alone the joy of its practice).

But having now thought for awhile before jumping, let me jump to a couple of tentative conclusions.  The first is that we have to think before we send a message, any message for the whole world – on the interstate or the internet – to read.

One day Jesus was in the temple and he saw the rich people proudly and publicly dropping their substantial, if not generous, offering in the treasury. Jesus knew the message they were trying to send.  Luke remembers the incident this way (21:104):

As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. "I tell you the truth," he said, "this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on."

We should be careful about public displays of piety. Especially if the message we intend to send is more about lifting ourselves than lifting our humble Savior on high.

But whether we advertise our piety on a license plate or not, in time most of those who know us at all will know that we are among the faithful, that we claim the name of Christ. Family members and co-workers, neighbors and classmates; they figure it out sooner or later.

So what message, if not your license plate then the way you drive, do you send to your fellow motorists – and especially the passengers in your car? What about the way you handle stress or disappointment at work, irritation in the neighborhood, pettiness among school friends, game-playing in the family circle?

We should be careful about public displays of impiety, too.

Several months ago, I offered posted a piece called “They’ll Know We Are Christians By our Facebook Pages.” I received a lot of comment at the time, and I would encourage those of you who are Facebook users to read it again.  What message about the Christian life might be found on your page?

What messages are you sending?  What messages am I sending?

Okay, Caleb may not be the most remarkable baby ever born, but he is, for sure, the most remarkable grandchild I’ve ever had.