Don’t be lazy!
Maturity doesn’t happen by accident. Look at what it says at the beginning and at the end of the reading. In 5.11: We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In 6.12: We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.
The words translated “no longer try” and “lazy” are the same word in Greek, the original language of the letter. That is to say, you are being lazy in your Christian growth and that should not be.
The Christian life is very relevant
What would motivate us not to be lazy in the faith? The reason the author focuses on is how faith allows us to distinguish good from evil. We read in 5.14: But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
The Christian faith motivates us to be a good person. Because the truth is, humans want to be good people. When everything is equal, we choose what is good. The problem is, we’re not sure that it is worth the effort.
To explain this, let’s go back to the beginning of the Bible, where the issue is explained by two trees.
The first tree is called the tree of life. As it currently is, we’re forbidden to eat of it. In Genesis 3.22 :And the Lord God said, ‘The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live for ever.’
In other words, this tree represents life without end. God created us to be with him forever and his plan has not changed. In the last chapter of the Bible, Revelation 22, this tree reappears in abundance, there is a forest of them.
But the reason for prohibiting access is understood by the other tree. This tree is called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. What does it mean? In Genesis 3.6 we read: When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
The meaning of the words “for gaining wisdom” is self-realisation, that is, life determined without God. God is not against us being wise or like him. Wisdom is very important in the Bible and he created us in his image. The issue is seeking a wisdom that wants to exist apart from relating to God. The Bible argues that to grow up without our creator is disastrous. It is observable in the world both in family and in nature. I was in a national park in South Africa and the guide explained the history of some juvenile elephants. This national park has a fence and can’t support all the animals that are born. So, the rangers decided to move some juvenile elephants to another park without their parents. It was a disaster because these juveniles had not learned from their parents how to behave. In the other park they broke the fences and stepped on lions to kill them. It is not the normal behaviour of the elephants, but without their parents, without their creators and their wisdom, self-realisation led to a disaster. It is what the histories of Genesis refer to. If we move away from the wisdom of our creator and only seek self-realisation, it leads us where the elephants went.
Why does Jesus get our attention? Because his life seems so good. And how does Jesus explain this? He responds by saying that he listens to the wisdom of his heavenly father. And it turns out that eternal life came to him.
What should I do?
The encouragement of this letter is to do what Jesus did: eat solid food.
First of all, the Christian faith is not just a ticket to heaven, the idea that I’m afraid of death and Jesus gives me a death insurance policy. Thinking like that is useless and that is what we read in 6:1-6. Basically the author says that being a Christian means putting into practice our new understanding of how we understand the world. We change the way of thinking, it is conversion, we see that what we do matters and we do not continue with works that do not give life according to God, we recognise the importance of wanting to grow in knowing God, we see that now we belong to the people of God and we have a new perspective on the future. That is information that should change us. It is the information that drives us to reinterpret what is good and what is bad. But if it remains as information, a brochure, it is nothing more than an entrance to the theatre. We are not going to do the performance, but sit in the audience. And we can see the same performance more times without doing anything. The author warns us not to treat Christian knowledge like that. It will result in a life that is useless, according to verse 8.
In school, we learn how to count. But we do not go to an accountant to listen to the multiplication tables.
Notice that the author calls attention to the possibility of falling away, verse 6. And some people worry about the matter of really knowing if they are followers of Jesus. The solution is not to worry, but listen to his advice: eat solid food. In other words, eat the truth that you have found in Jesus so that you may mature. Verse 9: Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are convinced of better things in your case – the things that have to do with salvation.
In other words, allow your understanding of salvation to influence the direction of your life.
For example, the reality that death is not the end, the understanding of the resurrection of the dead. How is the use of earthly things affected? How is the balance of the bank account affected? Jesus said a lot about how the earthly things we keep, about greed. Do you remember the parable about the rich man? God told him: “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” (Luke 12.13-21).
Another example: faith in God. How is understanding affected by following what God says instead of what humans say? About speaking the truth, for example. Is it what you say because you trust in God?
The bases of salvation are to build life. Or better, the image of the letter in 6.7-8: Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.
Try to cultivate what you have already learned about God and his salvation. If not, it is useless.
You’re concerned about how to do this? Notice in 6.12: We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.
Do it by imitation. This book is full of examples of how to put it into practice. Also biographies; ask me and I’ll give you a book about the story of a person who put faith into practice. We also have this group; between us we can help each other.
Trust that God will keep his promise!
Finally, do not forget that God will fulfil his promises. The writer of the letter calls our attention to the person of Abraham (6.13-20).
God takes his promises seriously, very seriously. In Genesis chapter 15 he repeats his promise to Abraham that he made in Genesis chapter 12. We read: So the Lord said to him, ‘Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.’… When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking brazier with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces.
We know what this ritual means because of something that Jeremiah writes (Jeremiah 34.18): Those who have violated my covenant and have not fulfilled the terms of the covenant they made before me, I will treat like the calf they cut in two and then walked between its pieces.
God says he would cut himself in two if he does not keep his promise! And history shows us that God fulfilled his promise to Abraham, continued to fulfil his promises and fulfilled them in Jesus, so that, as verse 19-20 says: We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest for ever, in the order of Melchizedek.
We will think about Melchizedek next week. But for now, the impulse to eat solidly is to acknowledge that God keeps his promises until death. Know his testimony of faith to you so as to boost the desire to eat well.