November 10, 2012

The Lawnmower Parable

On a warm summer day, you are outside in your front yard watering plants and enjoying the peace and serenity of the beautiful afternoon. Suddenly, your neighbor pulls in front of his house with a big box tied into the trunk of his car. He unloads his package and you can see by the writing on the cardboard that he has just purchased a new lawn mower. As he is ripping into the box, another neighbor who lives directly across from him also drives up with an identical box in the back of his pick up truck. When the two men notice that they are both new owners of the same model of lawnmower, they regard each other with a crooked half-smile. Soon, both cartons are opened and lawn mower parts and tools are spread across their driveways. As Neighbor A starts to assemble his new machine, Neighbor B yells over to him: "You know you're supposed to thread the pull cord through the handle before attaching it, right? Take a look at Figure 3.36 in the Owner's Manual!" About three minutes later, Neighbor A cites something about proper spark plug installation from Section 5 of the Owner's Manual to which Neighbor B replies: "Yeah, I already knew that." At this point, both men are still smiling, but you begin to hear a touch of resentment in each of their voices. For the hour that follows, you get a front row seat to your neighbors trading jabs and bickering about item after item from the Owner's Manual. They get so wrapped up in being didactic and outdoing each other that they don't even notice that you have gotten annoyed by it all and gone inside. 

Two weeks later, your neighbors are still out there everyday finding new ways to contradict each other about things that are written in the Owner's Manual. By this time, they've memorized all of the diagrams and they can even recite verbatim the Spanish and French versions of the text, their voices now raised to a disrespectful tone. However, when you look at their houses, you can see that the weeds on their lawns have grown to over a foot high. While each of these men claims to know more than the other about his lawn mower, neither one of them has actually ever turned it on to use it.

Had this been a true story, I think you'd agree that it would be pretty silly. However, if you're keen on metaphors, think of the front yard as one's everyday life, the lawn mower as one's spirit, and the Owner's Manual as the Holy Bible. When looking at it that way, I'm sure you can see how the scenario I drew can unfortunately be 100% accurate. It is a terrible irony that some people get so consumed by trying to be right in their opinions about the Bible that they lose sight of the fact that they aren't acting in accord with its precepts. Colossians 3:12: Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

The moral of the story: DON'T BE HOLIER-THAN-THOU! God did not give us the Owner's Manual for the purpose of having us behave like Biblical know-it-alls -- belligerent, condescending, sanctimonious, and arrogant; He expects each of us to cut the grass.

"But the wisdom that comes from heaven
is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive,
full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere."

~James 3:17