In the sitcom The Office, two employees are locked in a perpetual pettiness that often manifests itself in Jim pranking Dwight and Dwight’s comical indignation.
The pranks vary from Jim putting Dwight’s stapler in a Jello mold to Jim putting the entire contents of Dwight’s desk into a vending machine.
Dwight always informs his boss Michael or the Human Resources representative, Toby.
The rule breaking is so frequent and Dwight’s complaints so numerous that Toby has started a secret file for Dwight’s complaints that are stored in New York.
This file, however, never leaves Toby’s office.
The elaborate story of sending a list of Jim’s misdeeds to a higher level of justice in New York City is a tool to make Dwight feel better.
Dwight knows he is following the rules.
He goes to great lengths to show his adherence to them and to equal lengths to show other’s failure to follow the rules.
Thus, the secret file in New York.
Dwight has a love of the law.
It helps him makes sense of the numbing world of his office.
This love of the law makes Dwight somewhat ridiculous to modern audiences.
Christians, especially protestant, don’t have a high opinion of “the law.”
Luther said, “every doer of the law and every moral worker is accursed, for he walketh in the presumption of his own righteousness.”
Luther is working off of Paul who we sometimes think of having a low opinion of the law.
But it’s important to remember that the law has not always been viewed with such low esteem.
We know that the law is a gift from God.
In the Old Testament, the law is compared to mana that falls from heaven and nourishes the sojourning Israelites in the wilderness.
So, is the law good or bad?
Is it a gift or a curse?
Are Christians called to be Jims who undermine the law as something silly or Dwights who zealously follow the law to the point of annoyance if not absurdity?
Let’s ask Jesus.
Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.
Dwight’s it is?
No, thanks be to God.
What Jesus is getting at is something the prophet Jeremiah alludes to.
“The days are coming,” declares the Lord,
“when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
and with the people of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant
I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
though I was a husband to[d] them,[e]”
declares the Lord.
“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the Lord.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.”
The purpose of the law is not so that God can keep a secret file in New York about each of us.
We are not to be a bunch of petty rule followers but neither are we called to be a casual dismissal of God’s law.
If, with you tolerance, I might illustrate my point with one more of my favorite pranks.
Jim restarts his computers and we hear the iconic noise of a Windows restarting.
Bum bum bum bum.
He then offers Dwight a mint.
We then see a montage of Jim playing the music and offering Dwight a mint.
Each time Dwight more instinctively takes the mint.
Bum bum bum bum
That is until the last time.
The music plays but this time Jim doesn’t offer a mint.
However, there Dwight is with his hand out ready to receive it.
Jim asks, “what are you doing?”
Dwight, seems almost unaware his hand is out and says, “I… I don’t know.”
My mouth tastes bad all of a sudden.
Then Jim slyly stares down the camera.
We know what has happened.
Dwight has been conditioned to expect a mint when he hears the noise.
This is the aim of the law and the promise heard in Jeremiah and realized in Jesus Christ.
I will write the law on their hearts.
In Jesus we see a person so saturated in God’s law that he enacts it almost subconsciously.
This is God’s dream for us.
That we would follow these laws that were made for our flourishing in a way that was almost like walking or even breathing.
We would do them almost without thinking.
How do we do it?
Well it takes conditioning, practice and time.
We need to expose ourselves to the law.
Jesus talks about living off of it.
And to live off something you must meet it daily.
He uses another metaphor.
Salt, saltiness, and losing saltiness.
How does salt lose its saltiness?
Well, by being diluted by other stuff.
If salt is mixed with enough other stuff, it stops being salt.
It stands to reason then that if we are to be like Jesus and be saturated with the law and maintain our saltiness and be a light it will take a few things.
First, take some time to think about what you expose yourself to everyday.
How often are you exposing yourself to Fox News, MSNBC, Netflix and other influences.
How often are you exposing yourself to the bible?
What is the ratio?
If you don’t want to lose your saltiness, it’s important to be aware of what you are letting in.
What are you letting in and what are you keeping out?
To be Christian is to mindful of what we let influence us.
If you feel out of whack and out of balance start there.
Take some time this week to think about it.
Because next week we will hear God give us a choice.
And if you want to know what the choice is, come back next week!
I’ll leave you hanging until then.