We aren’t called to live in chaos

Have you ever been in the grocery store and picked up an apple or a green pepper from the bottom of a stack and watched the whole mountain above come crashing down at your feet? Sad to say, I’ve seen it. I’ve done it. And that’s a pretty fair picture of my life right now.

I am currently living in chaos. Just being honest. When you’re sick for a month, life and responsibilities just stack up, and then when you’re well enough to put things back together again, it feels like you cause an avalanche of apples or green peppers with every project you decide to work on.

But one thing I learned a long time ago is that God doesn’t call His children to live in chaos.

This is not my picture.... Not my office either, but I'm almost this bad

This is not my picture…. Not my office either, but I’m almost this bad

Today’s verse is 1 Corinthians 14:40.

But be sure that everything is done properly and in order.

This verse is actually part of the first letter Paul issued to the Church of Corinth. Man, you think your church has problems? Oi. Nobody has problems like the Church of Corinth. It was a mess, and Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, addressed the issues in the book of First Corinthians.

While this message is primarily directed at a church gone haywire, I think there’s truth in it for our everyday lives too. So how do you live life properly? How do you live life in order?

So what is proper? That word always makes me think of Jane Austen novels and Victorian etiquette. Obviously, that’s not what it means. And in order? There are lots of ways you can put something in order. Which one is this talking about?

You guys know I love a word study.

The word we translate properly in this instance in the Greek is εὐσχημόνως (Strong’s Concordance word 2156, if you want to check it out yourself), and this word only appears in the New Testament three times (Romans 13:13, 1 Corinthians 14;40, and 1 Thessalonians 4:12). It always talks about behavior, especially behavior that is in good form. Decorously becoming. What’s respectable, modest, noble.

The word we translate in order in the Greek is ταξιν (Strong’s Concordance word 5010). It’s a little more frequently used in the New Testament–9 occurrences total for the root word. But what’s interesting about this one is that it’s a military term used in ancient Greece, suggesting a detailed ordering of a group of soldiers.

So what does that tell us? Proper behavior isn’t sipping tea with your pinkie crooked. It’s making choices in life that are respectable and modest. If we are to live properly, that means we live a life that is worthy of respect.

And living a life in order means we need to know what’s happening in our lives, as specifically as a soldier knows his duties. I also think it’s interesting that soldiers live a very simple life usually. They don’t have a lot of possessions, and they don’t usually take on more duties than they are assigned. At least, the soldiers I know don’t.

Living a life that’s worthy of respect and that is clearly defined in its responsibilities? Sounds pretty nice to me.

In my experience, we tell everyone yes. We want to help everybody. We want to make everyone happy, so we rarely say no. And as a result, our calendars are so overfilled with appointments and responsibilities that we can’t keep anything straight. So step one is to learn how to gently say no to the extra activities that stress us out.

Get the basics down. Know your responsibilities–your duties. What you have to do today. What you have to do tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that. And don’t just know it–do it. The basics of life are like the foundation of a building, and if they aren’t properly cared for, the whole structure will come crashing down. Prioritize.

Don’t have so much going on that you can’t keep track of everything. And if you simply have to have lots happening, find a way to organize it. Keep track of it. The more that slips through the cracks, the less respectable you’ll be. And part of living the kind of life we’re called to is to be worthy of respect.

We aren’t called to live in chaos. God calls all of us–our churches, our families, our personal selves–to live orderly lives worthy of respect. It’s not an easy calling. It means we have to make difficult decisions. We have to say no sometimes. We have to cut things out of our schedules that we might want to do.

So think about it. Do you really enjoy chaos? I don’t. Nobody is going to make you do it. It’s a decision you have to make on your own. It’s between you and the Lord. But nothing is going to change until you make up your mind.