Sunday, March 29, 2020

Inbox: To the Youth Group

Last week, a youth leader we know sent the following email to the young people in his local church. I thought it made a great point, and he was kind enough to allow us to share it here.

Good morning everyone,

Students, your March Break 2020 is drawing to a close. I wonder: if someone had asked you on Saturday, March 7th how you would describe your March Break today on Saturday, March 21st, would your description have been anywhere close to how it actually unfolded?

The dramatic shifts in just two weeks get me thinking that there is probably something in the Bible that can provide some wisdom for us to shape our lives to. Of course there is, so the tricky part is to limit ourselves to just two selections for now.

For a bit of setup I want you to consider that a section of the Bible can provide many angles of understanding. Like the surface of a well-cut diamond, different angles reflect different sides of the same gem. I’m not trying to exhaust all the meaning in the following Bible sections. Instead, I’m just highlighting a couple of the angles.

The ‘What’ Angle

Let’s first look at the following words from the Christian Standard Bible, James 4:13-15. The angle I’d like you to notice is the ‘what’ angle:
“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.’ Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring — what your life will be! For you are like vapor that appears for a little while, then vanishes. Instead, you should say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’ ”
What am I going to do today?
What do I want to see today?
What amount of time do I want to spend on it?
What money can I use?
What is my intent?
What about tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after that?
What will I do with my life?

What? What? What? We ask it all day long. But do we ask this ‘what’ question: What does the Lord Jesus want for me today?

The ‘Who’ Angle

Let’s continue on and look at another angle. I think the ‘what’ angle from James will reflect nicely on this other part of the Bible as you read it. Let’s see how Jesus pivots ‘what’ onto something even more important. It is from Matthew 19:16-22:
“Just then someone [a young man] came up and asked him [Jesus], ‘Teacher, what good must I do to have eternal life?’

‘Why do you ask me about what is good?’ he said to him. ‘There is only one who is good. If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.’

‘Which ones?’ he asked him.

Jesus answered: Do no murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not bear false witness; honor your father and your mother; and love your neighbor as yourself.

‘I have kept all these,’ the young man told him. ‘What do I still lack?’

‘If you want to be perfect,’ Jesus said to him, ‘go, sell your belongings and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’

When the young man heart that, he went away grieving, because he had many possessions.”
There are three ‘what’ questions given here (v16, 17, 20). All good questions for sure. Jesus, however, shifts the focus from ‘what’ onto ‘who’. The ‘who’ is more important than the ‘what’. Can you see where Jesus shifts from the ‘what’ onto the ‘who’? You find it first when Jesus takes “what is good” and shifts it into “who is good” (v17). Jesus does it again, not so obviously, where he says, “follow me” (v21) in response to the young man’s ‘what’ question in v20.

Shifting ‘What’ to ‘Who’

I think now the ‘who’ angle jumps to clarity in both sections of the Bible. In James the ‘who’ becomes clear (“If the Lord wills …”), and in Matthew the ‘who’ becomes clear (“Jesus said to him … ‘follow me’ ”).

And it is more than just any ‘who’ question. It is the ‘Who’ question: Who will you follow? The answer we find is Jesus. Jesus invites everyone and anyone to follow him. What is written in Matthew shows us that this is a real choice we can choose to make — Jesus made the offer to the young man and the young man walked away. The young man wasn’t ready to put the ‘whats’ in his life where they belong and to recognize the ‘Who’ he had the life-changing offer to follow.

My hope is that you will discover for yourself that knowing Who to follow, Jesus, will provide wise perspective for all those many and varied and changing ‘what’ questions of life. I hope you will discover that the ‘what’ questions are easier to prioritize wisely in the reflection of the Lord Jesus himself who matters above all else.

So, what will you be doing for March Break 2021? Who knows? Jesus knows. Follow him.


  1. The emphasis expressed here is a good one, however, it always bothers me that in, especially, today's times the consequences implied in these examples are so easily glossed over.

    What I mean by that is that people nowadays tend to ignore the fact that they constantly base their lives and opinions on a "what" analysis and ignore the fact that by doing so they essentially may have made a bad "who" choice. E. g., when Obama (as a false Christian) decreed that he knew better than God (was greater than God) by deciding that there could be marriage between two men the consequence is that people were seduced by the "what" and followed the "who" of a delusional selfaggrandizing person possibly for the rest of their life. The consequences obviously can be severe. One has to be cautious since the "what" by extension nowadays includes the "who" of supreme court judges, politicians, TV personalities, actors, musicians, etc., none of whom necessarily deserving of that commitment. The fix to this, the correct approach, which seems to escape people, is that the inverse must be applied. You look at who it is and then decide that the "what" may be correct and worthwhile. (It is of course possible that a correct "what" can occasionally also be put forth by the wrong "who", so one must simply be cautious in evaluating trustworthiness and differentiate between the what and the who).

    1. Any 'who' who falls short of Christ is going to lead us to bad 'whats' from time to time. When the apostle Paul said "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ," I suspect he meant something like "Be imitators of me, BUT ONLY SO LONG AS I am imitating Christ." That definitely takes discernment.