Bread – Overextend

September 15, 2014


Readings for Monday, September 15, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Job 40:1-24; Acts 15:36-16:5; John 11:55-12:8; Psalms 56,57,58,64,65

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The word for today is “overextend,” meaning to go over reasonable limits.

When we overextend in our commitments, we have no time to rest and therefore go over the reasonable limits of activity. If we overextend our arms during exercise, we run the risk of torn muscles because we have gone over the reasonable limits of exercise or natural extension capacities of the arm. If we overextend in eating, we gain weight because we have gone over the reasonable limits of daily caloric intake.

It would appear from my examples that any overextension results in some kind of injury to ourselves.

Based upon our experiences, therefore, we create reasonable limits to our activities so that we can avoid the negative consequences of overextension. The problem, though, is setting the definition of what is “reasonable.” What is reasonable with one person may be unreasonable for the next (the exercise which results in more muscle in a person who has exercised may result in a trip to the hospital for someone who has not exercised in a long time). The question of overextension and reasonable limits, therefore, becomes a personal question – what is a reasonable limit for me?

But the problem with making it personal is that we may well err on either being too conservative or too liberal. For example, we need a fitness coach to argue us through our reasonable limit of exercise to set a new limit. If we set the limit for exercise, it would do us no good because it would be too conservative and we would never “stretch” the muscles.

Now the point of all this is to make a point – there are reasonable limits for our action set by man and there are reasonable limits for our actions set by God…and they are not the same.

One might say that the process of growing up in the faith is learning God’s reasonable limits for our lives and then living up to those limits without exceeding them.

In Scripture today, we have two examples of this. The first example is from Job. Now we know Job and all that has happened to him (the loss of position, power, wealth, health, and self-esteem). Job complains to God about his condition. Job has his reasonable limits on his complaining – he can complain to God about anything he wants to, all the time. He can even, according to his limits, complain to God about God Himself, about God’s creation, His unfaithfulness, anger, hatred, pettiness, etc. toward Job. We might well consider Job’s complaining to be justified in the circumstances, asking ourselves “How can a loving God do this?” From our perspective, nothing we say or do by way of critique of God is overextended; our reasonable limits of complaining have no bounds. Except for one thing … God Himself has set the reasonable limits of complaining, pointing out that it is not for man to judge God less man be God himself. We can complain all day long, but we cannot presume to judge God. That is the reasonable limit set by God and any complaining we do which challenges God’s sovereignty, His goodness, His justice, His love, or His power is an overextension which can hurt us.

So Job has overextended God’s limits on complaining (although not his own), and this is what God says to him: “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty?…Will you [Job] even put Me in the wrong? Will you condemn Me that you may be in the right? Have you an arm like God, …?” Job 40:2,8-9

When we do not accept God’s plan for ourselves, be it low or high, poor or rich, we overextend ourselves and, ultimately, hurt ourselves.

The second example is the reverse of Job. Why is it that so few people sing during church services, or if they do sing it is so low that you have to bend an ear toward them to hear them? Embarrassment? A desire not to stand out in the crowd, to blend in? A wish for an “orderly” service? The truth is that many Christians set their reasonable limits for worship, prayer, Bible study, and meditation very conservatively. And we dare not go beyond our own self-set limits. Why? Well we know that, if we overextend ourselves beyond our reasonable limits, we run the definite risk of being injured in our public reputation, the disdainful eyes of those who are important to us, the acknowledgement of our own weakness that we do not have a singing voice, the embarrassment of it all.

And yet, in these matters, where our relationship is between us and God, God’s reasonable limits of behavior are much more liberal, are much more extravagant.

In today’s lesson from John, we read about Jesus’ anointment by Mary, using a lot of expensive perfume. Mary pours out the perfume upon Jesus feet and His head without regard to how much she is using and without regard to cost, she bows over His feet like a servant would of her master, and she uses her hair to wipe His feet, demonstrating that in His presence she can show the most intimate devotion. Judas the apostle (and betrayer) complains about the extravagance; he would put a reasonable limit on worship which leaves something over for the poor (or himself). We don’t know about the other disciples, but we can probably assume that they were as shocked by this spectacle as was Judas, thinking that Mary’s act of worship was overextended well beyond reasonable limits.

But Jesus’ commends her, demonstrating a standard of worship and love of God which is over-the-top, extravagant, and ever offensive to “normal” sensibilities. Jesus’ reasonable limits of interaction with Him, the Father, and the Holy Spirit would almost be unbounded; there is no way that you can overextend your worship of God.

Built into these two lessons are three examples of where reasonable limits come from. The first is ourselves, the second is other people (society), and the third is God.

Are you overextended such that your life, your soul, your body, your relationships are injured, are hurting? If so, you might ask yourself who sets your reasonable limits – you, others, or God?

And if it you or others who are setting these limits, maybe it is time to recalibrate to God’s limits. And then live within them.

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© 2014 GBF

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