The Foolishness of Shortcuts

Most of us have a story about shortcuts that didn’t work so well. Not only did they not save the time hoped for, but they sometimes end up causing other serious problems to the vehicles used or we run into unexpected obstacles.

One time when I was in high school in the frozen country of the Illinois suburbs, I felt invincible in the snow in my stepdad’s VW Bug with the rear engine over the back axle. My girlfriend and I were driving around with a group of friends. They headed one way, but I got the bright idea that we could just do a u-turn through a pile of snow and beat them. As my VW plowed its way through the snow, the back tires started spinning like crazy. When I got out to see what the problem was, under the snow was a big piece of glazed ice. We were stuck in the era before cellphones. 😣

When Linda and I were newlyweds we went out to get our first Christmas tree at a tree lot. I missed the turn, took the next left, and found out that the two parking lots were not connected. “No problem!” I said and proceeded to drive over a berm between the two lots. I high-centered and balanced perfectly on top of the berm.

We learn the grave problem of some shortcuts in the Bible from the story of Abraham and Sarah. As we know, it took decades for this couple to have the baby that God had promised he would bring from Abraham’s body. In her impatience, Sarah cooked up a shortcut: just go sleep with my servant and she will be the surrogate for the promised child. Wrong move! Not only did this create immediate friction, Ishmael became the father of many nations that have proved to be enemies of Israel for millenia down to our present time.

Good things develop from avoiding shortcuts and doing things the right way. In a recent sermon series* on the Book of Ruth, Boaz is seen “taking the long way around” to do things the right way, the honorable way:

  1. He did not harass or take advantage of the immigrant woman he found gleaning in his fields but provided protection and generous provision for Ruth and Naomi.
  2. He again resisted taking advantage of Ruth when she appeared sleeping at his feet in a proposal of marriage.
  3. Boaz resolved to marry Ruth honorably according to the law of the kinsman redeemer, if God would work out the details.
  4. Boaz confronted the kinsman redeemer at the city gate to offer him the first right of refusal for Naomi’s property and her daughter-in-law.
  5. When the other man balked, then Boaz confirmed in front of the whole community his wedding plans with Ruth and the two celebrated the great victory in Ruth and Naomi’s lives!
  6. The child born to them became the grandfather of King David. Boaz & Ruth are forever in the lineage of the Messiah Jesus!

Sometimes impatience drives us to shortcuts. Our children will also be tempted to take shortcuts in obeying God. One common temptation of engaged couples is to reason, we’re going to be married anyway, why bother waiting to come together sexually? But some engagements fall through, and many couples struggle with guilt and regret from failing to wait.

Other lessons we learn from Boaz taking the long road:

  • God cares not just about what we do, but also how we do it.
  • It is important to take pains to have a clear conscience before man and God. (Acts 24:16)
  • It is always the right time to do the right thing in the right way.
  • You never realize the far-reaching consequences of taking a shortcut in God’s will.
  • Likewise, you never know the future implications of right decisions. Often these choices result in career blessings since one’s trustworthiness has been demonstrated. Other times one finds that this patience and obedience to make the right character choice reaps a harvest of good will with others.

Sometimes we are tempted to take shortcuts because we are convinced that it is too painful to do things God’s way. In Ruth chapter 1, Naomi is in such great pain that she has lost hope and tries sending her daughters-in-law away. Thankfully, Ruth refuses to abandon her. She chooses faithfulness to Naomi and Naomi’s God and this commitment proves to be redemption for Naomi after all. At the end, Naomi celebrates the fruit of the good decisions of Ruth and Boaz.

This story should be told often to our children. Ruth and Boaz are noble role models. The book deals with real troubles that can come into life and reveals that in the midst of the trouble, God still has a good plan for His people. This and the story of the birth of Ishmael can illustrate the upside of faithful patience and the downside of trying to do God’s will in our own way.

Many lessons in life are learned the hard way. I never just plowed through a pile of snow again nor tried to take a shortcut with a sedan over a high berm. But some shortcuts can be costly. Take your time to do it right. If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it again? The example you set is the example your children will follow. May God give us the wisdom we need at just the right time to do the right thing, Christopher

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