You remember those lunchroom trays from your childhood, don’t you? They were so compartmentalized. They were the epitome of “a place for everything and everything in its place.” The cream corn wasn’t supposed 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 the 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 smooth playing surface with his food groups and you just might get some strange artistic endeavors. I think about Randy, Ralphy’s little brother in that classic movie A Christmas Story. Randy was the kid 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: When we are kids, those things become so ingrained in our minds that we carry the mental imagery of them the rest of our lives. In turn, that causes us to imagine our lives as being sectioned off into the neat little compartments of work, home, family, leisure, and religion. Consequently, we assume that the contents of each compartment must remain completely isolated from the contents of all the other compartments.
For example, we shouldn’t take “work” home because that is a spilling over into “home” and is therefore wrong. Likewise, our “leisure” has no place at our “work” site because if the two run together we’ll get fired for goofing off. As for “home,” it 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. Along the same lines, “leisure” can be neighborly to “home” by way of television, dvds, video games, 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. Church, of course, is a wonderful thing 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 in the bulletin:
- 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. Now it’s time for me to leave church and go to another section of the tray.”
Let me assure you, however, that “tray living” is not what God has in mind for the Christian. Note carefully the following two quotes from the apostle Paul:
“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, N.K.J.V.)
“Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31, N.K.J.V.)
Now, tell me, can you think of anything that isn’t a “whatever”? I mean, “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! It means that 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 job site because he’d work as if Jesus was standing right there beside him. His home would be a well-kept place because 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 dysfunction on his part. Sin wouldn’t enter into his leisure time, either, because you just can’t engage in internet pornography, a gambling addiction, alcoholism, or drug use in the name of the Lord Jesus. And 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.
The point in all this 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 at church and wait for you to rejoin Him there the next time you come. Instead, He stands up with you as the benedictory prayer is prayed, and then He has the gall to walk with you out the door, get into the car with you, and ask He climbs in, “Where are we off to?”
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 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, but you don’t dare do it because Jesus is right there watching you.
This is why, Christian, you should purge the concept of “tray living” from your mind. Just get it settled that there are no sections, compartments, or categories of your life. There is only Jesus, and He’s 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. No doubt about that. But it’s a Biblical one. Furthermore, I guarantee you that your entire existence will be changed if you live like this. Your work site won’t be the same place. Your home life will get an upgrade. Your family life will be taken to a higher level. Your leisure will become good, clean fun. And your religion will become something so much more than mere church attendance. Actually, it won’t even be religion anymore. Instead, it will be a second-by-second relationship with Christ. You see, Christian, that’s the way Jesus wants you to live. He wants you to turn in your tray and start thinking of your life in a completely different way. The only question left to be answered is, “Will you do it?”