You remember those lunchroom trays from your childhood, don’t you? They were so compartmentalized, so sectioned off, so “a place for everything and everything in its place.” The cream corn wasn’t to spill over into the mashed potatoes. The apple sauce couldn’t get out of its banks and make the roll soggy. The peas and Salisbury steak were strictly prohibited from mixing and mingling.
Such trays are nice things to have around when you are feeding kids. Give a seven-year old a flat playing surface with his food groups and who knows what artistic endeavors you might get? I think about Randy in that classic movie A Christmas Story. He was Ralphy’s little brother, the one who wouldn’t eat, the one who worked his mashed potatoes into the shape of a volcano and threw his peas into the side of it, making an explosion noise each time he did it. That probably wouldn’t have happened if his mother had used a lunchroom tray.
But the problem with lunchroom trays is this: Those things become so engrained in our minds when we are kids that we carry the mental imagery of them the rest of our lives. We come to think of our lives as being sectioned off into the neat little compartments of work, home, family, leisure, and religion. We shouldn’t take our work home. That is a spilling over and it’s wrong. Our leisure has no place at our worksite. If the two run together, we’ll get fired for goofing off. Home is for making the beds, sweeping the floor, mowing the yard, and cleaning the basement. It can sometimes walk hand in hand with family, but when family requires a trip to ball practice, piano lessons, dance recital, or the orthodontist, home must be left to stand alone in its own compartment of the tray. Leisure can be neighborly to home as well, what with television, dvds, and internet sites. But leisure and home can never fully join up because leisure must frequently abandon home to travel to the golf course, the lake, the campsite, the beach, or the amusement park.
And what about religion? Well, for the average Christian, religion primarily means going to church. Make no mistake, church is a wonderful thing, that is until it becomes something we merely drive to and back from. If that’s the case, church isn’t much more than a confined building where we sit and check off the program that is printed on the bulletin they hand us when we walk through the door. Opening prayer: listened to that, check. Hymn of Praise: sang that, check. Announcements: sat through them, check. Offering: paid my dues, check. Special Music: heard that, check. Sermon: got through that, check. Invitation: not for me, check. Benedictory Prayer: listened to that, check. Mission accomplished, time to leave for another section of the tray.
Let me assure you, however, that “tray living” is not what God has in mind for the Christian. The apostle Paul said, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:17). He also said, “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). Now, tell me, can you think of anything that isn’t a “whatever”? “Whatever” doesn’t just cover a lot of territory; it covers ALL territory. It is a Ziploc bag big enough to seal in your entire tray. The Christian must do his job, conduct himself at home, interact with his family, enjoy his leisure, and do his church attending all in the name of the Lord Jesus and to the glory of God. What a concept!
Can you imagine the implications of living in such a way? The Christian would be the best worker at his jobsite because he’d work as if Jesus was standing right there beside him. His home would be a well-kept place. It’s hard to have knee-high grass, filthy floors, and unmade beds to the glory of God. His treatment of his family would be exemplary, no spousal abuse, child abuse, or disfunction on his part. Sin wouldn’t enter into his leisure time either. No internet pornography, gambling addictions, alcoholism, or drug use. You just can’t engage in those things in the name of the Lord Jesus. Church attendance would be an awesome thing too. It would be vibrant, exciting, and uplifting, the kind of experience from which a person can launch out victoriously into the world.
You see, the point is that Jesus refuses to be compartmentalized. He wants everything the Christian says or does to come under His Lordship. If it is a “whatever,” He demands jurisdiction over it. He refuses to stay behind in His pew beside you at church and wait for you to rejoin Him there the next time you come. Instead, He stands up with you, listens to the benedictory prayer, and then has the gall to walk with you out the door and get in the car with you. As He climbs in, He asks, “Where are we off to?” When you protest by saying, “Wait a minute, Jesus, You’ve got to stay here at church while I go about my life,” He says, “No, I’m going wherever you’re going.”
By the way, in case you think I’m pushing things too far in depicting Jesus as being beside the Christian all the time, let me remind you that the Bible takes the idea even further than I have. Passages such as Romans 8:10, Ephesians 3:17, and Revelation 3:20 teach that Jesus, by way of the indwelling Holy Spirit, literally lives inside the Christian’s body. You can’t get any closer than that! What better Christians we would be if we would just get a hold of this idea. There you are, tempted to undermine your boss at work, play the slacker around the house, cut your spouse to shreds with cruel words, do something seedy and call it leisure, or daydream in church. Wait a minute, you wouldn’t do any of these things if Jesus was right there watching, would you? And it just dawned on you: He is!
That’s why, Christian, you should purge the concept of “tray living” from your mind. There are no sections, no compartments, no categories of your life. There is only Jesus, with you everywhere, all the time, expecting you to do everything in His name and to His glory. Yes, this is a radical way of living, but it’s a Biblical one. Live like this and your entire existence will be changed. Work won’t be the same place. Home will get an upgrade. Family will be taken to a higher level. Leisure will be good, clean fun. Religion will become something so much more than mere church attendance. Really, it won’t even be religion anymore. It will be a second-by-second relationship with Christ. Are you interested in that? Then turn in your tray and start living the way Jesus means for you to live.