Using the Wrong Tool   2 comments

A yellow flathead screwdriver

A yellow flathead screwdriver (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am not very mechanically inclined.  In fact, my physician has recommended that I do not use power tools for the safety of myself and those around me.  I am fine with not being mechanically inclined because that means when something needs fixed I automatically know that I need to call someone and I don’t waste my time getting frustrated trying to do the repair myself.  However, I have had enough experience and my father has taught me enough that I can usually identify all the major tools, even if I don’t always know their proper names.  One of the things that I do know for certain is that you must have the right tool for the job and even though it may be a very helpful tool, it may not always be wise to use the tool.

Most of our traditions, rules, and rituals exist because they are the right tool for specific times, places, and situations.  However, one of the problems that many of us have is that we mistakenly believe that a perfectly good tool should always be used in every time, place, and situation.  A screwdriver is an awesome tool.  It can loosen and tighten screws that help to secure a board, a door knob, or a multitude of other items.  It provides what is necessary to ensure security.  Yet, a screwdriver is of no help when trying cut the limb off of a tree.  We would think it absurd for a person to walk up to that tree with a screwdriver and try to begin sawing the limb with it.  However, I watch over and over again when people use a wonderful tool that has been helpful in the past to deal with a situation that is completely different in the present.

I believe that one of the very important first steps is for us to understand what the purpose of the tool was meant to be.  If we are going to apply a rule, continue a tradition, or participate in a ritual, we have to have some knowledge of why the rule was created, what was the starting point of the tradition, or what the meaning is that exists behind the ritual.  Then based on that knowledge, we have to determine if this is the right rule, tradition, or ritual to apply in our given circumstance.  Unfortunately, most people just continue to use the rule, tradition, or ritual without investing the time and effort to gain such knowledge.  This for me, is when I often see the wrong tool being used for the wrong situation.

Christians tend to be misusers of tools of our faith.  We often keep applying rules that were established for very good reasons many years ago even though those reasons no longer exist today.  We continue a tradition because it had purpose and impacted our faith community in a positive way fifty years ago, yet today no body truly understands the tradition and it becomes more of a burden than a positive impact.  We participate in rituals without having the slightest clue in regards to what that ritual represents in our faith lives so the ritual is hollow and we participate in it mainly out of rote.

Tools are fantastic and very useful in so many different ways.  The key is making sure we are using the right tool for the right purposes.  We also need remember that some tools have lived out their purpose and are ready to be retired to the museums.

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Beyond Rituals



2 responses to “Using the Wrong Tool

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  1. Jim, I agree that rules, even around faith, should be examined to see if they still make sense. But I am not so sure about rituals. Do I have to understand the Lord’s Supper prior to agreeing to participate in it? Or do I grow in my understanding only by participating in it? Isn’t it the nature of ritual, to connect us with deep things that don’t make sense?

    • I think you are right Ken but I would say that there is a need to gain understanding of a ritual if we wish to continue to participate in it. Otherwise, it becomes mechanical and we never move toward that connection with deeper things.

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