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The Parable of the Lawn Mower

The Parable of the Lawn Mower

By Andrew Wilson
Wednesday 30 July 2014

Here's a wonderful parable from a wise older Christian I met recently. He probably doesn't read blogs, but if he does, he knows who he is:
We all know that words, without deeds, are dead. All of us have seen the terrible effect of a person who doesn’t practise what they preach, and if we haven’t, then we have read the New Testament and found such people in its pages.

But fewer of us recognise that deeds, without words, are also dead. I don’t know whether Francis of Assisi ever uttered the words attributed to him - “preach Christ at all times, and where necessary, use words” - but whether or not he did, they are obviously inadequate. And this is true, not only because the gospel of Christ simply cannot be proclaimed without words, but also because the very act of trying to “preach” with our deeds does, in fact, preach something, and it isn’t the gospel.

Let’s say I have a neighbour, and I want to “preach Christ” to him using my deeds. I greet him over the garden fence. I invite him and his wife round for dinner, where I show them the best hospitality of which I am capable; I explain that I am a Christian, but make no attempt to shove the gospel down his throat. Noticing that his garden could use a bit of work, I offer him my lawnmower, which he accepts, and eventually, through repeated usage, breaks. I do not complain, or ask him to replace it; I replace it myself, and continue to allow him to use it whenever he sees fit. I help whenever I can. In all things, I seek to display unconditional kindness towards him, and to love him as I love myself. Eventually, he dies.

Now: what have my actions preached to him? They have preached that Christians are people who do good things for their neighbour. They have preached that niceness, and kindness, and morally upright behaviour are what make you a Christian. In short, they have preached justification by works.

Your works have indeed “preached” something. But it isn’t the gospel.

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