The Edifier

West Allen Church of Christ

The Edifier Index

It's a Tragedy Alright


Recently, while looking around on the Internet, I came across a web page with various errors that have been allegedly placed in church bulletins. Among them was this gem: "The eighth graders will be presenting Shakespeare's Hamlet in the church basement Friday night at 7:00 p.m. The Congregation is invited to attend this tragedy."

Often, when we see such things, we laugh at them because we know what the writer intended to say. In this instance, the only "tragedy" the writer intended to reference was Shakespeare's Hamlet, but the reader could well have taken what was written to mean the performance put on by the children.

In this instance, however, there was a much deeper tragedy at work. What we see here is a congregation that has forgotten the mission that God gave it: to proclaim the truth of His gospel to a lost and dying world. Instead, it had allowed its building to become nothing more than a playhouse for the performance of Shakespeare's tragedies.

Further, the lesson being taught to those eighth graders is that it is perfectly acceptable to use those things dedicated to the Lord's use as places of temporal entertainment. This is a lesson that we have to be extremely careful NOT to teach our youth.

God has always had something to say about having a proper respect for Him. In Leviticus 10, Nadab and Abihu went before God and offered "strange fire" before God. The Scriptures characterize the fire as "strange" and elaborates by saying "which He commanded them not."

We don't know what made the fire "strange." It could have been that they took the coals to start the fire from an improper place (Lev. 16:12). It could be that they started the fire themselves. We just don't know. What we do know is that the fire that they used shouldn't have been used because it didn't come from the proper place. The result of their transgression was their deaths. Leviticus 10:2 tell us that fire "went out from God" and consumed them.

Next, God does an extra-ordinary thing. He tells Aaron that he may not mourn the loss of his children. Why would God say that? God's reason was "I will be sanctified in them that come nigh to Me...." (Lev. 10:3).

Consider for a moment what God meant when He told Aaron not to mourn the loss of Nadab and Abihu. He said "I will be sanctified." The word "sanctify" means to "impart or impute sacredness, inviolability, or respect to." The sons of Aaron lost their lives because they didn't have a proper respect for God. God had provided a method for offering incense to Him and Nadab and Abihu chose to offer a fire that originated from some place other than the source mandated by God. They failed to sanctify God when they went before Him.

So, what does all of this have to do with the tragedy in the church basement? Often today we can be tempted to find "good reasons" to put those things dedicated to the use of the Lord's church to "good use" doing other things. But, when we fall to that temptation, we fail to sanctify God.

Doubtless, Nadab and Abihu thought they had good reasons for offering a "strange fire" when burning incense to the Lord. Perhaps they were running late that day and the alter they were to take the coals from was "too far away" or perhaps they thought that it was a "small thing" that God didn't really care about. Whatever their "good reasons" were, God really did care that they sanctified Him when they came before Him.

Today, we may be tempted to think that allowing the eighth graders to perform Hamlet in the church basement might be a good way to encourage them to spend time together instead of with the unrighteous children of this world or to come up with any number of other "good reasons" to allow it. But, is the lesson that we want to teach our children really that food, fun, and frolic in the building dedicated to the worship of God is more important than sanctifying God when we come before Him?

May it never be.