My son found these instructions (see picture above) in something he had opened. It seems that the author either wanted to make it really clear that the instructions were important, or simply sought to be entirely excused from any liability.
I appreciate the need to capture the attention of casual readers, when they might otherwise miss something that is important to their own safety. When you think about it, though, isn’t “Important” kind of redundant when it comes to safety? Are there really any “unimportant safety instructions”?
Still, you and I know that there are those who will see these bold capitalized words, and then not even read – much less follow – the instructions. (I sometimes read through the full users’ manual for a new gadget, but I think that I’m the exception.) For something simple, we might get away with this behavior. However, when the contents of the box include more buttons and dials than an automobile, if we don’t read the directions, one of three things becomes more likely to occur:
- We won’t get the device to work for us at all.
- We will injure ourselves (or others) while using it.
- We will miss out on features that could make things easier for ourselves.
God has given many instructions to people over the centuries. Some are addressed to humanity as a whole, while others are specific to individual groups. Here’s a recounting of when God gave instructions to His people, the Hebrews.
For when I brought your ancestors out of Egypt and spoke to them, I did not just give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices, but I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you.
Jeremiah 7:22-23 NIV
Why does God give instructions, though? Unlike many technical writers today, He doesn’t have to worry about getting sued, after all. Isn’t being a person easy enough that we should just be able to figure it out, maybe by watching a YouTube video or something?
If you’re a human being, you know that isn’t the case. Life has lots of challenges, and those of us who have lived through enough of those know that we don’t have all of the answers on our own. (Has anyone received an instruction book right after a baby is born, with all of the things that a new parent needs to know about that particular newborn?)
I think that God, with His instructions, is protecting us from the same three problems that the users’ manual for a new power tool or kitchen appliance is meant to prevent.
In the first case, without God’s instructions, we would almost certainly not be able to figure out the purpose of life in the first place. Without considering the words of God, many have wandered (whether physically or mentally) through all manner of philosophies, none of which accurately captures the meaning of life as well as God’s definition. In light of the truth that God shares with us (about where we came from, where we are going, and why we’re here), His guidance doesn’t merely let us live in a pattern of “generic well-being” that is good for all human beings. More than that, He provides specific help for our specific purpose, having created us for a particular role (see Ephesians 2:10).
Without God’s instructions, we also tend to create a lot of unnecessary pain. Sin, which is really just not following God’s instructions, has led to a curse on the earth (Genesis 3:17-19), and continues to harm both the guilty and the innocent. While followers of Jesus still suffer in this broken world, the more that God’s directions are followed (whether out of gratitude by those who love Him, or out of external compulsion by those who do not) the better off people and society are. We are generally healthier in body, mind, and soul when we do things God’s way, and while violating His commandments may seem like something we can get away with for a while, these choices catch up eventually (see Numbers 32:23, for instance).
Finally, if we don’t bother reading God’s instructions, we miss out on what life can be. When we go off onto our own paths (or the fallacies of other human beings with finite knowledge), we might stumble into a few of the things that God offers to us, but we remain ignorant of more that God has to offer for those who follow Him. I know that I reference this verse a lot, but Jesus offers us an abundant life, as recorded in John 10:10. Can you imagine not knowing that an all-powerful God is available to listen to your prayers and requests, and instead trying to solve everything on your own? What would it be like if we didn’t realize that Jesus pre-paid for our sins, so that once we give our lives over to Him, we are free and no longer have to live in fear? How much less is accomplished by those who want to be right with God, but don’t benefit from the multiplication of gifts, skills, and resources that come from serving in a community of believers?
So, I encourage you to read through the messages in the picture at the top of this article again, but do so while thinking about God’s Word: Read the Bible. Keep the Bible nearby for reference. Heed all warnings in the Bible. Follow its instructions.
After all, you received a one-of-a-kind life. You may as well use all of its features to the maximum extent of their capabilities.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.