After assigning us some hefty reading over the previous days, our professor suspected that my classmates and I were not taking our homework seriously enough. Doubtful that we were reading at the level he expected for class preparation, he sprung a sort of “pop quiz” on us. His assessment was simple. He listed each of our assigned readings with a place to indicate our engagement with them. We could choose one of four options for each section of material: did not read, skimmed, read all, or read and took notes. The activity surprised us and prompted us to be honest. It also helped us reconsider the purpose of our assignments and evaluate the effort we were investing in the course. Our professor had a good conversation with us about the purpose of those reading assignments, what our efforts meant, and how we could approach them moving forward.
I often think back on this experience. My professor was more concerned about his students receiving something meaningful from the assignments than he was about testing our memorization skills or having us mindlessly complete busywork. He wanted us to take the time to truly read and engage the material, rather than simply checking a task off our list. His intention was to foster a better practice within us, one that shaped our learning so we could apply it to our classroom discussions and the work we would eventually do in our field.
Jesus wants us to see how studying and practicing his teachings and commandments could make them more than a checklist of which ones we do or haven’t done. He wants his words to move us towards a better life. Are we embracing this guidance? Is the Spirit that resides in Christ’s words enlivening our own words and actions? In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus shows us what this kind of lively life looks like.
As I read Scripture, how could I better embody it and experience its life?
God, as we seek to live by your teachings, help us discover the abundant life that comes from living for you. Amen.