It's The Thought That Counts
By bro Amos Yang
As a child, it was a common occurrence to receive gifts on birthdays or other special occasions from relatives or from friends that were not necessarily something I needed or wanted, and I would be reminded by my parents that it’s the thought that counts. It was more important that others cared enough to remember a birthday or special occasion and wanted to express their love and friendship by giving a gift. The gift itself was inconsequential.
Now, as an adult and having been blessed to have the opportunity to give gifts to others like my nephew and niece, I have grown to truly appreciate just how important the ‘thought’ is, and upon reflection, I believe this idea of the importance of intention and thought has wider applications in my life as a Christian.
As Christians, we have many tasks and obligations to fulfil. Studying the word of God (2 Tim 2:15), evangelizing (Mark 16:15), and carrying out benevolent works (James 1:27) are just some of the tasks that we are commanded to do. While we must obey the commandments of God, merely doing what is commanded of us is insufficient. In my experience, it is very easy to fall into a false sense of security that because I am carrying out what is expected of me, I am on the right track.
I have been guilty of falling into that trap, losing sight of the true intention of carrying out my responsibilities as a Christian, and it is only with timely reminders from the examples of other brothers and sisters in Christ that I have been able to ‘catch’ myself and make corrections. I would therefore like to share some of the warning signs that may indicate when we may be going down a path where we are failing to be intentional about what we do.
The ‘at least’ mentality
There have been times in the past when I have found myself thinking, ‘at least I’m teaching a bible class this year’ or ‘at least I’m attending worship services.’ And while in both examples I have checked off the tasks that are part of my Christian responsibilities, these thoughts emerged only to justify my lack of effort in fulfilling other responsibilities or giving my absolute best. The Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30 comes to mind, where the man who had received one talent seemed to think that by ‘at least’ returning the talent to God, he had done what was expected of him. But little did he know that this was seen by God to be ‘wicked and slothful’ (vs. 26). Are there areas in our lives where we give the minimum of what is expected of us? And if that is the case, can we confidently say that we have fulfilled our responsibilities in the way that God would like us to?
Doing things on autopilot
Another observation I have made is how easily I fall into doing things out of habit where it becomes mechanical, and I fail to be mindful of the true significance of that act or responsibility that I should fulfil as a Christian. One example is the act of singing. Having been singing hymns since a very young age, the act of singing during worship services does not require much deliberate thought or effort for me. The repetition over the years has allowed me to commit the lyrics and melody to memory such that I could easily have my mind elsewhere even while singing through multiple stanzas. And while it is true that singing during worship is better than not singing at all, by performing this act in such a habitual or mechanical way, it is easy to lose sight of its true significance. Singing is meant as praise to God (Psalms 147:1) and a way to encourage fellow brothers and sisters in Christ (Ephesians 5:19). As a result, I can only truly please God if I meditate on the lyrics as I sing, directing all of my energy and effort toward praising Him.
With so many demands on our time and limited physical and mental energy to draw on, it is a challenge to be intentional and mindful about what we do. I imagine that the lack of thought and going through the motions was something that plagued the Laodicean church, which eventually led to them being criticized as ‘neither hot nor cold’ (Rev 3:15) and therefore displeasing to God. Therefore, to avoid going down that same path, we may need to re-evaluate what we choose to spend our time and energy on so that we can truly give our best to God