The Chopsticks Story

You might be reading this at work. If so, unless your employer regularly encourages you to wander to places that have nothing to do with your day’s productivity, it’s safe for me to say that you aren’t always a stickler for rules, are you?

Even so, I like to bring up rules occasionally.  Specifically, every so often, I host a sermon series that relates the greatest commandment (a holy rule?) Jesus gave to John Wesley’s General Rules.

As a side note: I don’t appreciate how some people who are not affiliated with a church denomination are quick to assume that we who are like to forget about Jesus and blindly follow our denomination’s every whim.  To clarify, the guy who began, grudgingly, our Methodist movement wanted to follow Jesus with all his life.  So do I.  So do a lot of us.  Over the course of a few hundred years our denomination has found meaningful ways to do just that.

It’s no different from your church.  And it always is about following Christ first…and only.

Okay, you got me.  Maybe that wasn’t a side note. It was a rant.

Back to what I was saying.

At our church, I’m about to finish a sermon series entitled Love God, Love Others.  Again, it’s based upon Jesus’ reminder that the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul and mind.  And equally the greatest—see what Jesus did there?—is the command to love your neighbor as yourself.  If you don’t understand that, you don’t understand faith in Jesus.

Jesus didn’t give a bullet-point listing of what loving God and loving others looks like in every situation.  Maybe Jesus just wasn’t as methodized as John Wesley seemed to be.  John Wesley took the desire to love God and wrapped it into 3 rules for those of the Methodist movement.  The are:

  1. Do no harm
  2. Do good
  3. Attend upon all the ordinances of God

Our series takes each of those and explains how they help us live out the greatest commandment of Jesus.


This weekend, I shared a story to emphasize the call to Do Good.  Hopefully, people understood that I don’t think Jesus merely calls us to be do-gooders or a bunch of goody two shoes—I like to wear sandals on occasion.  Rather, we are called to care for each other.  It’s part of God’s design of the church.

Here’s the story as I first read it:

A woman who had worked all her life to bring about good was granted one wish: “Before I die let me visit both hell and heaven.” Her wish was granted.

She was whisked off to a great banquet hall. The tables were piled high with delicious food and drink. Around the tables sat miserable, starving people as wretched as could be. “Why are they like this?” she asked the angel who accompanied her. “Look at their arms,” the angel replied. She looked and saw that attached to the people’s arms were long chopsticks secured above the elbow. Unable to bend their elbows, the people aimed the chopsticks at the food, missed every time and sat hungry, frustrated and miserable. “Indeed this is hell! Take me away from here!”

She was then whisked off to heaven. Again she found herself in a great banquet hall with tables piled high. Around the tables sat people laughing, contented, joyful. “No chopsticks I suppose,” she said. “Oh yes there are. Look – just as in hell they are long and attached above the elbow but look… here people have learned to feed one another”.

I call it the chopsticks story because I’m original like that.  You may have read that story and replaced chopsticks with spoons, but the take away is the same.

The story shows us, at least, 2 important things.  First, the commandments or rules that we’re talking about aren’t rules in the sense that many of us assume, constricting & burdensome.  No, they are more akin to a rule of life, a way of living.

Second, the chopsticks story demonstrates what it means to do good and that is to ensure we take care of each other.  I won’t preach the sermon again; you can listen to it if you’d like.  But I will ask that you make sure to do your part to ensure the church is that kind of place.

We had a fish fry right after church that day. So, I recommended we eat fish with our chopsticks. As you know, no one listens to me.

I gave everyone a pair of chopsticks so they could, and hopefully would, remember the call to do good.  I’d give you a pair if I had figured out that teleportation thing

Yes, friend, you are called to do good.  Now, get to work.  And by work I mean both the work of doing good and the work that someone is paying you to do right now.  Oh, you thought I forgot about that?

Stay blessed…john



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