The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why do you look so resentful?” (Genesis 4:6, CEB)
The Jedi Master Yoda warns both Aiken and Luke Skywalker about anger. Yoda tells Luke in The Empire Strikes Back, “Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
Someone should have warned Cain.
“The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouting of a ruler among fools.” (Ecclesiastes 9:17, NRSV)
When I first met B. J. Seymour, I saw a petite, soft-spoken older woman. I was a young 20 something attending orientation at Randolph-Macon College and B.J. was to be my adviser. I had bad experiences in the past with advisers. So, I didn’t have very high hopes. In short, based on my first impressions of B. J. I passed a judgment about her. How could she possibly help me? What was I going to learn from her?
But, I would soon be proven wrong. B. J.’s classes were some of my toughest classes at Randolph-Macon. She knew my ability and held me to it. She pushed just enough so that I would not only be challenged but so I would work harder. B.J. would become a trusted adviser guiding me through my academic career, providing opportunities for me to serve and grow, and all in a quiet, but a wise voice.
The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom, and humility goes before honor. (Proverbs 15:33, NRSV)
When Obi-Wan Kenobi brings Luke Skywalker to the Jedi Master for training, Yoda does not want to train him. Luke has decided that the way of the Jedi is exciting and adventurous. He’s decided he knows what kind of training he needs. And he has decided that Yoda could not possibly be the one to offer him that training.
Yoda knows that Luke’s attitude is not in the right place for instruction. Luke is not ready. He needs some humility.
“Those who ignore instruction despise themselves, but those who heed admonition gain understanding.” (Proverbs 15:32, NRSV)
When I was a kid my parents would not just assign me a chore to complete, but they would give me instructions on how to complete that chore. Some of you may know what I’m talking about. Most of the time the instructions made no sense to me. I could not wrap my head around why they were telling me to do it that. And in the end, there was usually a reason.
It would be (and was) easy to ignore some of the instructions and do it my way. Sometimes (when I was lucky) things would work out ok. But other times it would usually result in a big mess that one of my parents would have to rescue me out of.
When it comes to our faith it is so easy to assume that we have it all figured out. And that is the very moment we know we don’t! It’s so easy to ignore the advice given to us by older folks in our faith communities. We don’t pray on a good day and think we’re ok. We leave our Bibles on our shelves collecting dust and don’t think twice about it.