Definition Defined

Definition Defined

“The LORD will establish you as a holy people to Himself, just as He has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the LORD your God and walk in His ways.”   Deuteronomy  28:9

 To mow or not to mow, that is the question, and it’s not answered by the length of the grass.  That is too obvious.  Who would even consider mowing a lawn whose blades weren’t in need of shortening?  No, the answer lies in the amount of time one has to do the job.  For me, if I don’t have enough time to mow and weed-eat, then I don’t have enough time to mow.  If I can’t complete the entirety of what is needed, then I don’t even begin.  The only thing worse (in my opinion) than a lawn in need of mowing is a mowed lawn in need of weed-eating.  Somehow the contrast between the tended and untended causes me to notice only the untended.  And that is an affront to my optic nerves!

At my house, when it comes to yard work, I can enlist helpers to mow the grass.  It’s not too difficult to find a volunteer to drive the riding lawn mower.  But, when it comes to doing the weed-eating (or, heaven forbid, the push mower), there isn’t a volunteer in sight and, while I have tried to reinstate the “yard draft”, that too has proven futile.  Turns out no one else has heard of this civil service act.  Go figure.  At any rate, I, by decree, default, and defeat, am the leader of the weed-eating army of…one.

So, as I was weed-eating the other day, I thought about why this portion of the yard work was so important to me.  Truly, no one else in my home values this procedure as much as I do, so I asked myself why it meant so much to me.  And the answer came in one word:  definition.  Weed-eating gives definition to a yard, clearly defining its boundaries.  Without it, there is no distinction between the areas that are being maintained and those that are not intended to be upheld.  I began to think about the word definition.  Later, because I thought it was ironic…and funny…, I looked up the definition for the word definition.  Here is what I found:  the degree of distinctness in outline of an object, image, or sound; synonyms – clarity, sharpness, crispness, acuteness.  As I thought about this word, I realized it encompassed far more than I had originally speculated.  Far beyond depicting my value of weed-eating, this four syllable word held a much deeper meaning; by its very definition, it identified itself as a word that stresses the importance of boundaries, of clarity and distinctness.

As I allowed this thought to expand, it quickly jumped the borders of yard work and crossed into the boundaries of life.  Once in this terrain, it began stamping its name upon those areas that also have, or are in need of, definition.  It tattooed its name on that which is written and spoken; communication relies on definition to be effective.  It seared its name upon art and music; even our senses need precision in order for appreciation to emerge.  It imprinted its name on policies and principles, contracts and covenants, government and the governed; all these rely upon clear definitions in order to function properly.  And then, with one fell swoop, it personally wrote its name upon the Church; not the building, but the body of believers.  There too, there especially, there more than anywhere else, definition was necessary.

But how does one apply this word to one’s life?  How, as Christians who are the Church, do we become defined?  How do we develop a “distinct outline” and increase our clarity and crispness?  The answer is found in the book of Deuteronomy.  Here, as Moses reiterates the laws God has given to His people as they prepare to enter the Promised Land, we read of how the Israelites were to be defined.  They were not to look like the people who lived in the land God was giving them; they were not to follow their customs or to practice foreign religions.  The Israelites were to be distinct…acutely different from those around them.  In Deuteronomy 4:1, Moses gives these reminders to the Israelites:

“Surely I have taught you statues and judgments, just as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess.  Therefore, be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’”  

Then, in chapter 28:9-10, Moses records,

“The LORD will establish you as a holy people to Himself, just as He has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the LORD your God and walk in His ways.  Then all peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the LORD, and they shall be afraid of you.”  (Bold font mine.)

In these cited verses, as well as in the entire book of Deuteronomy, God defines His people.  He addresses every aspect of living so that, by definition, the Israelites will be known as His children, with a clarity that is easily recognizable and a sharpness that is in stark contrast with those around them.  Throughout this book, warnings are given to those who don’t want to weed-eat; to those who are reluctant to keep their boundaries clearly marked.  For them, God warns that, once the perimeters are no longer clearly edged, their distinction will be lost and they will soon look more like their godless neighbors than like God’s chosen people.  When this occurs, they will exchange the blessings of godly obedience for the curses of ungodly obstinacy.

While the book of Deuteronomy records what the Israelites were to do in order to be a clearly defined people, its truths apply to all believers today who make up Christ’s bride, the Church.  We too are called to live in such a way that there is a distinctness about us; we are to have our boundaries clearly marked, and trimmed, so that others know what we believe and Who we belong to.  If we only tend to our general yards through church attendance, church events, Sunday School, etc. (group activities) and neglect the detail of weed-eating through daily Bible time, prayer, Scripture memorization, etc. (personal disciplines), then we will soon lose our definition and, as was true for the Israelites, begin to resemble the people around us more than the God we have been called to represent.  We will be yards whose borders are not clearly seen and, therefore, are easily trespassed.

So, whether or not you share my philosophy for literal weed-eating, I hope you will share my newly uncovered philosophy for spiritual weed-eating!  Truly we are to be distinctly Christian; people who, by definition, are to have a “degree of distinctness in outline and form”.  May we, as believers, be a people whose clarity, crispness, and acuity may be evident so that others might first see our faith and then see our Savior.  Now that’s weed-eating at its best!

Author: Kris Smith

I live in West Tennessee with my husband of nearly 30 years and our two boys, ages 20 and 17. My love is education...specifically Christian education. For the past twenty years, I have served as a teacher and also principal. Now, however, I find myself in a new season...a quieter season...a difficult season. What I have done full throttle for the past two decades, I am no longer doing. As I adapt to this adjustment and seek the path God is clearing for me, I find myself wanting to share what God is teaching me with others. And so, here I am. Listening and learning from the Master Teacher Himself. I hope the lessons He teaches me are applicable to you as well.

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