Have you noticed how lists are so much a part of our lives? The Bible starts with a list, and our country was founded with one.
But there are also folks out there making lists who surely can be doing something better with their time. Instead, they are giving us a list for crazy conspiracy theories. And one for the most influential candy bars of all time. And if you have lots of free time (and I do mean lots), Rolling Stone has compiled a description of the 500 greatest albums ever.
What is it about lists? Why do we love them so? Well, in an attempt to answer that question, there is, of course, a list – a list of the top ten reasons we love lists. A list about lists.
One of the reasons the list says we like lists is this: lists help give sum things up. A list gives you everything you need to know, and when you get to the end of the list, you’re finished. A list has a clear beginning and ending. Certainly, lists are helpful. Most days, I have a to-do list somewhere nearby – even if it’s just in my head. But lists aren’t everything. As the top ten list about lists says, if you ask an artist when she will finish the painting, she might say: when it’s done. List-making isn’t the same as life-making.
But used correctly (and not simply to discuss bizarre Bigfoot theories), lists can summarize and point us to what matters most.
In fact, the Bible has plenty of lists. There are the famous ones (like the Ten Commandments, a list of Jesus’ disciples, and the Beatitudes). There are some lists in Scripture that are harder to read (the kings conquered by the Hebrew people, and the exiles returning from Babylon). And then there is a great chapter in the Bible, Proverbs 30, which includes these lists: four things that are never satisfied (perhaps it should be five, and include teenagers), four things difficult to understand (can I add teenagers?), and four things that have wisdom contained in small packages (um, not teenagers).
But I think my favorite list in the Bible is found in Galatians 5, because it is a list that points to life. For teenagers. And the rest of us. If you haven’t read it recently, you might dive in. It will take you all of 10 seconds to read, but a lifetime to learn how to apply. For while It’s one of the shortest lists around, it’s also one of the hardest to live. Because, in a way that only the best lists can do, it both summarizes what matters, and points how to get there.
So, go ahead. Refresh your mouth (and your mind) with the Fruit of the Spirit. Then come back next week, and I’ll share some thoughts on its purpose and its power.