Naughty is standard

Just got my Toys ‘R’ Us Christmas catalogue in the mail. Whoo hoo. I mean…whoo hoo! The “whoo hoos” were certainly more exuberant when I had little children in the house. I miss those now grown and gone ones.

As you can see, the tag line on the cover says, “Naughty is not an option,” a reference, of course, to the jolly old, fat guy checking his list. Though the toy giant intends it to mean, “Avoid the naughty list at all costs,” as the inside cover makes clear in big, bold letters, this tag line would play very well as a marketing slogan for something quite different. “Naughty is not an option” can also mean that we can’t not be naughty. Being naughty is not optional; it comes with the standard package. And as such is a very succinct sales pitch for the Gospel. It’s Marketing 101…identify the need.

Of course, the tag line requires some fleshing out if the consumer is going to feel the need and “buy” the product. In what way does our naughtiness suggest a need?

I won’t! I won’t do it!

The need is implicit in the word “naughty” itself, as traditionally understood to mean disobedient to a command or a law. Firstly, there is an expectation of obedience when a command or a law is given…nay, not only expectation but requirement. If there weren’t, there would be no moral component in choosing to disobey. One would not be naughty but indifferent, or nonconforming, or independent. The badness conveyed by the word presents the naughty one as guilty, and because a command without consequences or a law without liability is in essence merely a suggestion, with the guilt comes punishment.

You’re not the boss of me!

Secondly, if naughtiness is breaking a moral law then there must be a moral lawgiver, from whom the punishment comes. Whether or not we believe he exists, we are accountable to God as the only source and foundation for a moral law (see here for more on that) and he has the right to spank us, ground us, or put us in time-out….for eternity. Guess which one we get? Why eternal separation from him is the consequence for our misbehavior I can’t thoroughly and confidently explain, and would take at least a sizable, separate post if I tried. But that is the reality and therein lies our need…our greatest one. Just one act of defiant disobedience and we’re consigned to the corner forever.

It’s his fault!

And thirdly, the “non-optional” aspect of naughtiness refers to our inability to always obey. We can’t do it. The Bible traces our naughty nature to Adam and his disobedience to God’s direct command not to eat of the fruit of that one tree. The fruit of that one act is a bad seed, from which we have all germinated. Again…a topic for a whole ‘nother post. But even if you reject that sin lineage, you know you’ve been naughty. We all have.

That’s not fair!

So, we can’t help but be naughty yet we’re still judged and condemned for it. This would be unfair if not for the extraordinarily special offer God made at the very beginning. Even before Adam and Eve disobeyed, God had the plan in production…a way to move us from naughty to nice through no effort of our own. To move us from the domain of sin, darkness and death to righteousness, light, and life in the Kingdom of God. All we need do is believe and trust in him.

I’m sorry. I want to be good.

That’s what the Gospel is…the greatest, most valuable, most priceless “commodity” the world has ever seen. We all need it, but we can’t buy it. We can only receive it…by believing it, and submitting to the God of our souls who loves us with an undying love. When we do, he gives us his Spirit who helps us not be so naughty.

Only then is naughty optional.

Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. – Isaiah 55:1-3