A ranch couple, struggling to survive, was devastated to discover that their one bull had died. The rancher sent his wife, with all their savings, to the auction to buy another bull.
The wife was very pleased with the quality of the bull she bought, but found herself with no money left for train fare home. In fact, she only had a dime left. Desperate, she went to a telegraph office to contact her husband for advice. Learning that she could only send one word for a dime, she thought long and hard about how to condense her message to just a word. Finally, with a smile, she handed over her dime and asked the telegraph operator to wire her husband the word “comfortable.”
If you’ll repeat that word slowly, you’ll understand the brilliance of her solution to her dilemma. She was able to tell her husband in just one word, “Come for the bull.”
I am fully convinced that centuries of tradition and human nature have overly complicated God’s simple word to his people. One who seeks to please God is greeted with a confusing jumble of competing churches and doctrines and expectations. Layer upon layer of silt has settled on the simple message of the New Testament. Underneath all of that, what is it that really matters? How complicated is it for us to live a life pleasing to God?
For a refreshing reminder of the original simplicity, take a look at Paul’s letter to Christians in Thessalonica. Keep in mind that he only wrote them two brief letters, and that they probably had no other written instructions to study or follow. Remember, too, that this was a fledgling church about which Paul was concerned that they not falter. Their need was great, but his instructions were simple.
So, what did Paul tell them was necessary “to please God” (1 Thessalonians 4:1)?Here’s the list:
Be sexually pure (4:3ff).
Love each other (4:9-10).
Live a quiet life, minding your own business (4:11).
Work hard (4:11-12).
Look forward to the Lord’s return (5:13).
Respect church leaders (5:12-13).
Help others do right (5:14-15).
Be kind (5:15).
Be happy, be praying, and be thankful (5:16-18).
And, be open to God’s leading (5:19-22).
Sure, there are other instructions, but Jesus promised “My yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30). Let’s keep it as simple as he did.