do not turn aside after useless things that cannot profit or save, for they are useless.
1 Sam. 12:21
Today, Samuel warns the people to not chase after useless things. If you were asked what was a useless thing in your life, what image would come to mind? As a lifelong Cleveland sports fan, my first image of a useless thing would be the 1971 Cleveland Indians. Since they also finished last in attendance, they really did not pose a threat for taking attention away from anything, let alone the Lord.
Let me put this in perspective for you. In 1971, you could watch a double header for .50 cents and the Indians still only drew 591,000 fans. This year the cheapest ticket to a Minnesota Twins game was $20. They had a worse record than the 1971 Indians and still drew 1.5 million fans.
The next image of a useless thing would be the human appendix. For years, scientists, like Charles Darwin, thought the appendix had helped humans disgust tree bark. Since humans abandoned their dietary dependance on tree bark, the appendix had become useless. New research is discovering different uses for the appendix, but it has not really moved up the ladder of useful things. Still, if you do not pay attention to the appendix, it can rupture and threaten your life. Sometimes it is good to pay attention to useless things.
The other day, in a staff meeting, we had a slightly maddening conversation. It started out as a problem solving task to offer solutions to a worship conflict. Somehow, in the midst of offering alternatives, the conversation switched to hospitality. This led to a discussion about where to serve coffee and what type of coffee to serve. My head was spinning and even though I wanted to avoid the new subject, I found myself sucked into chasing after useless things. (This is not to suggest coffee is a useless thing.)
Then driving home from church, I listened to a report on NPR about scientific research. The details escape me, but the premise was how much of scientific research is wrong. It was not the process used, but the conclusions drawn that were wrong. Conclusions from research inform the next level of research. Therefore, in the scientific world, it is critical for scientists to discern useless things that cannot save from the useful information which can. But no one was exactly sure how to discern these things.
It is equally difficult to decide in our own lives which decisions are beneficial and which ones are a chasing after useless things. Samuel suggests prayer is the thing which provides the instruction about what is good and right. Giving your whole heart to the Lord begins with prayer. Prayer provides the wisdom to discern useful things which can save from useless ones which cannot.
Click to read: 1 Samuel 12: 20-24
Reflection Questions: What is your image of a useless thing? Why is it useless? What useless thing still needs your attention? Where do you find yourself drawn into making a useless thing important? How can you prevent this? When has prayer helped you discern useful from useless?
Photo Courtesy of Unsplash.com and David Straight.