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Ours is not to reason why

Ours Is Not To Reason Why.  Remember that saying?  Ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do or dieI was pretty sure I remembered it – 
but apparently, that’s not the way it goes.  It really goes – Theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die.

not to reason why

It’s from The Charge of the Light Brigade, by Alfred Tennyson.

I got it wrong.  However – what I really want to write about today …

Well, actually, it’s not today anymore.  In fact, that “today” was almost 8 years ago.  November 7, 2011.  But now, “today” is August 7, 2019.  At least, with “today” being defined as the day I started to update this.  As usual, I’ll be adding new stuff.  That’s a good thing.  It’s horrible to think that nearly eight years went by, and I didn’t learn anything.

Anyway, the new stuff is in text like this – brown with whatever font this happens to show up in your browser – so you can tell what’s new.  Maybe, hopefully, you can learn from my experiences.  If so, hopefully without some of the pain that came with my learning.

And so – back to that thought of “today”, November 7, 2011.

However – what I really want to write about today is the way I thought it went, because for this purpose, I think that’s how it really goes.

Ours is not to reason why

Ours is not to reason why,
ours is but to do or die.

So – I’m having a conversation with someone about this group I’m leading.  We’re studying C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters.

Totally by coincidence, believe it or not, I just happened to finish some major reformatting of the Study Guide we used in the group.  If you’re interested, the info on the entire series is at Screwtape Letters.

Anyway – the person says something to me.  Something I apparently completely misunderstood – took the wrong way.  But it made me wonder, what am I doing leading that group?

That made me start to wonder about this site.  Am I really doing anything useful?  Or is this more about what I want than what God wants?  Is there any value in it at all?  All sorts of thoughts.

That in itself is interesting – given that The Screwtape Letters is all about ways that Satan tries to take us away from God.

Anyway, last week when we were meeting, I look around the table and realize that of everyone there, I’m the least qualified to be running this group.
Now I’m really wondering.

I really need to know – what am I doing?
Is it the right thing?

Gideon’s was not to reason why

Well –

The sermon Sunday was about Gideon. Part of Gideon’s story includes –


Jdg 6:11 The angel of the LORD came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. 12 When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.”

Jdg 6:13 “But sir,” Gideon replied, “if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian.”

Jdg 6:14 The LORD turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”

Jdg 6:15 “But Lord,’” Gideon asked, “how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”

Jdg 6:16 The LORD answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together.”

Jdg 6:17 Gideon replied, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me. 18 Please do not go away until I come back and bring my offering and set it before you.”
And the LORD said, “I will wait until you return.”

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not putting myself in the place of Gideon.  But I did find it interesting that the sermon that weekend is about someone who doesn’t think he’s good enough to do what God wanted.  Sounds familiar.  Coincidence – or more?

His was not to reason why

So then last night – I’m reading Threshold, by Bill Myers.  The context for the lines below is that the “bad guy” is trying to convince the one who has apparently been chosen to do God’s work that he should instead take a path that would lead him in the opposite direction – in fact to do evil instead.
And so we have –

He’d already sniffed out the boy’s weakness, and now he was going for the kill. “But tell me, son. If you walk out that door, what exactly do you have? What purpose? What reason do you have for living?

All are very good questions.
All are very important questions.
But – when asked in the wrong way – one can easily come up with the wrong answer.

After a while – the boy decides to do the “right” thing – to follow God.
It’s not going to be easy – and for him – will be dangerous.

And here’s the exchange he has with his mother –

“It doesn’t have to be you. Someone else will be chosen. You can refuse it.”

He spun back to her, staring. What was she saying?

“It doesn’t have to be you,” she repeated. “You don’t have to be the one!”

He opened his mouth but could find no words.

“It’s true,” she shouted. “You don’t have to be the one. You don’t have to be anything, if you don’t want. We always have a choice. You don’t have to be anything at all. Nothing at all.”

You know – it’s true.

God does give us free will.

We do have the option to say no to Him.

Ours is not to reason why,
ours is but to do or die.

We can say no. 

Or we can say yes – and be guaranteed eternity with Him in Heaven.

We can also say no – and He will find someone else to take our place with whatever the task was.

However – if we choose not to do – then we may very well miss out on that eternity in Heaven.  And end up spending eternity dying in Hell.

Another thing right on topic for my questioning.

Another coincidence?

C S Lewis’ was not to reason why

Then, this evening while I”m in the middle of writing this – I check out the C. S. Lewis quote of the day on my phone.

I was not born to be free —
I was born to adore and obey.


We are free to choose.

We can choose to be free from God – or to adore and obey Him.

It’s been a really long week or so.

As I’m writing this tonight — looks like I choose to adore and obey.

Mine is not to reason why –
Mine is to do (God’s will) or die.

Mine is not to reason why –
Mine is but to do and Live.

And that was it.  I ended there.

And now it’s August 2019.  Like I said, about eight years have passed.  

One thing that’s changed is the length of what I write.  I very seldom write anything that short any more.  Supposedly, that’s a good thing.  I’ve been told I need to explain more.  That if I didn’t make my own point of view clearly, then it was left for the reader to fill in the missing pieces.  Or to just wonder what I tried to say.  So that’s part of my goal when I go back and update the old stuff.  Of course, that means it’s going to be longer.  Hopefully, also more clear.

Another thing that happens, especially when I think it turns out well, is that I end up writing something very different from what I originally planned or expected.  I can only pray that this is from the Holy Spirit, and not me wandering off on my own.  And that’s happening right now – as I’m writing this.

My thought was to talk about, obviously, mine is not to reason why.  Or, as Christians, ours is not to reason why.  Then something hit me.  Something I just never thought about the first time around.  It’s this:

“It’s true,” she shouted. “You don’t have to be the one. You don’t have to be anything, if you don’t want. We always have a choice. You don’t have to be anything at all. Nothing at all.”

Sure, we have free will.  I’ve written about that a lot.  But let me pull out just the phrases that struck me from those sentences.

You don’t have to be anything
You don’t have to be anything at all
Nothing at all

No, we don’t have to be anything.  We can completely waste our lives.  Accomplish nothing.  Do nothing.  It’s part of having free will.

Or, we can be “the one”.

Ours is not to reason why – our is to or die – or something else?

We live in such a polarized world today.  There are simple things, like Coke or Pepsi.  Coke for me.  Democrat or Republican.  Not so simple, but still polarizing.

It’s like you can be all in – or all out.  There’s nothing in between.  Even “real” and “fake news”, even though it’s obvious from recordings of actual events, pits people against each other.  “Truth” is irrelevant.  It’s my truth – your fake truth.

So it’s no wonder that the choice appears to be either “be the one”or “don’t be anything at all”.

Either – Or.  There’s nothing else.  There’s nothing in between.  

But is that really true?  If we take the blinders off our eyes and out of our brains, we might be shocked at what we find.  Let’s look at one more example.  An example that’s very relevant to this site.  Christian – or not Christian.  Either someone is Christian – or they aren’t.  That’s the way we think.  But is it really true?

John 3:16

Even non-Christians know about John 3:16.

Jn 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

If you’re Christian – you go to Heaven.  If you’re not Christian – it’s off to Hell for you.  Very simple.  In or out.  Nothing in between.

But then, what do we do with this event?

The Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven

18:1-5 pp — Mk 9:33-37; Lk 9:46-48

Mt 18:1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

Mt 18:2 He called a little child and had him stand among them. 3 And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Mt 18:5 “And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. 6 But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.

Mt 18:7 “Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come! 8 If your hand or your foot causes you to sin cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.”

What do we probably remember and talk about from this passage?  Very likely, we wonder about whether Jesus really meant for us to cut off our hand or foot?  Or gouge out an eye?  Did Jesus really want us to maim ourselves, cut off (our out) body parts in order to keep from sinning again?  It’s shocking stuff.  It’s very likely we remember it.  And talk about it.

But Jesus also said: whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heavenDo you realize what that means?  It means the concept of either in Heaven or not in Heaven is incomplete.  It’s true, in that it must be one or the other.  But it’s also incomplete.  Somehow, someway, there are relative levels of some sort in Heaven.  It’s not just a case of in or out.

The Parable of the Talents

25:14-30 Ref—Lk 19:12-27

Mt 25:14 “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. 15 To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. 17 So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. 18 But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

Mt 25:19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’

Mt 25:21 “His master replied, ’Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

Mt 25:22 “The man with the two talents also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’

Mt 25:23 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

Mt 25:24 “Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

Mt 25:26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

Mt 25:28 “ ‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. 29 For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Here, we see that two are in – and one is out.  We remember that.

It’s very much like the Parable of the Ten Minas.  One difference between the two parables has to do with the rewards.  Take a look at the Parable of the Ten Minas.

The Parable of the Ten Minas

19:12-27 Ref—Mt 25:14-30

Lk 19:11 While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. 12 He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. 13 So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’

Lk 19:14 “But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’

Lk 19:15 “He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it.

Lk 19:16 “The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’

Lk 19:17 “ ‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’

Lk 19:18 “The second came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.’

Lk 19:19 “His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’

Lk 19:20 “Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. 21 I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’

Lk 19:22 “His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’

Lk 19:24 “Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’

Lk 19:25 “ ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’

Lk 19:26 “He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away. 27 But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.’ ”

So we see in the Parable of the Talents, the rewards for the two who earned money for their master received the same words:

‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

Question – were there differences in the “many things” that each was put in charge of?  I’ve heard and read explanations that no, they received the same reward.  It’s not the amount that matters, it’s that both did something.  

However, look at the Parable of the Minas:

The first man was told:

‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’

But the second man was told:

‘You take charge of five cities.’

That’s not the same.  It seems like maybe the “many things” the first man was put in charge of might have been somehow more important than the “many things” the second man was put in charge of.  That’s in line with what Jesus said about whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Not to mention, when Jesus told His disciples:

Mt 19:28 Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.”

No matter what anyone says, in this life – we are not all equal.  And it appears that in Heaven, we are not all equal either.  Not that we should be concerned with that, because being focused on that would be pride.  Pride in being the least, in order to end up the greatest, wrong.  It’s a sin.  That kind of “humility” is false.  No, we should live a life that’s led by the Holy Spirit.  Period.  End of discussion.  As in ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do and live.  More on that is coming next.

Ours is not to reason why – our is to _______?

Where does that leave us with the concept or do or die?  Apparently doing the Christian thing is one choice.  Not doing it is another choice.  The first means eternity with Jesus.  The second means eternity with Satan. 

But it appears there may be some sort of hierarchy in Heaven?  Certainly not like any we have here in this life.  It’s backwards.  Very different.  And yet, indications are that one will exist.

And now, finally, we get to the thing I realized when reading the part about 

“It’s true,” she shouted. “You don’t have to be the one. You don’t have to be anything, if you don’t want. We always have a choice. You don’t have to be anything at all. Nothing at all.”

That is so true.  We don’t have to be anything.  But here’s the catch.  Jesus is the One.  It’s not going to be us.  

Remember this exchange between Jesus and the mother of John and James, the sons of Zebedee?

A Mother’s Request

20:20-28 pp — Mk 10:35-45

Mt 20:20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.

Mt 20:21 “What is it you want?” he asked.
She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”

Mt 20:22 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”
“We can,” they answered.

Mt 20:23 Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.”

Mt 20:24 When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. 25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

See?  Jesus is number One.

So then, what’s left for us?  We aren’t going to be number One.  And we certainly don’t want to die, because in this case, death is that trip to Hell.  Obviously, there’s something in between.  And it certainly seems that the “in between” thing is some sort of hierarchy.  It’s not just one “thing”.

But that’s Heaven.  What about here on earth?  What about the part that really got me to thinking?  Did Jesus ever say that we can be “one or the other” here on earth?  Are we all to be the same?  

Of course, there’s Paul’s writing about the body of the Church, where we all have different gifts and talents and roles to play within the body of the Capital-C Church.  But what about Jesus?  Did He ever say anything about two choices – one or the other?  Actually, Jesus said something quite different.

The Shepherd and His Flock

Jn 10:1 “I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. 3 The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them.

Jn 10:7 Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

Jesus said He came to earth so that we may have life to the full.  Not so we’d all be the same, but so we’d all have the chance to decide to be the best person – the best disciple of Jesus’ – that we could be.  Of course, we won’t accomplish that.  We aren’t perfect. 

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.  It’s a false choice when we think we either have to be “the one” or be “nothing at all”.  Some will be better disciples than others.  Sometimes that even depends on when in our lives we become disciples.  

I’ll tell you what though.  Regardless of where we end up in whatever kind of hierarchy there might be in Heaven, regardless of whether we’re in charge of many things, a few things, or even no things – it’s better than the alternative.  Any place in Heaven is better than any place in Hell.

And as for this life, knowing what Jesus went through for our salvation, we really ought to want to do our best to follow Him.  But wanting and succeeding don’t often match up.  Even the Disciples had their problems – even after receiving the Holy Spirit.  

At some level, as we grow in our faith, at least for me I feel more strongly now that I want to do better.  I want to be a better follower of Jesus.  I want to listen to and obey the Holy Spirit more than before.  It’s like being a nominal or part-time Christian isn’t good enough anymore.  As we grow in faith, as we understand more about Jesus, what He did for us, how much God loves us, it seems we should want more.  We should want to live out that life to the full.  To play our part in the Capital-C Church. 

Even being a mediocre Christian isn’t enough anymore.  I don’t see me being among the last, as in when Jesus said the last will be first.  What really matters to me, at this point in my faith, has to do with reaching people who think they’re Heaven bound – but maybe really aren’t.  And to challenge Christians who are OK with being among those Paul wrote about:

1Co 3:10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.

Like I said – any place in Heaven is great.  Even someone getting there only as one escaping through the flames is preferable to not escaping the flames.

And yet, I can’t help but feel the impact of what happens when we live our lives like that.  When we don’t actually live like Christians, to the best of our abilities.  When we think we’re saved, so life is good.

Because when we do that – whether it’s by the example of the light on the hill, or by actually reaching out to people – we’re not fulfilling the Great Commission.  We’re living out the Great Omission from the Great Commission, as Dallas Willard called it.  (you can read more about that here.)  And when we do that – how many people don’t escape the flames, because no Christian ever told them about Jesus?  For something I wrote on that thought, please see Why didn’t you tell me?  

Ours is not to reason why – conclusion

So maybe it should be, for Christians at least, Ours is not to reason why, ours is to live life to the full, as Jesus would have us do.  We don’t need to reason out why Jesus left us to be His representatives on this earth.  He did.  He’s God.  He gets to do that.  But then, it’s not like we’re left alone.  We’ve got what He taught in the Bible.  We’ve got the letters from the leaders in the early church.  And we’ve got the Holy Spirit – the mind of Christ – to teach and to guide us.

Asking why all the time does nothing, other than to take us away from the task Jesus gave us.  It also takes us away from having that life to the full Jesus promised us we could have when we follow Him.

Ours is not to reason why,
ours is to do and not die.

Oh yeah – and to lead others to not die either.

After all. Jesus told us: Jn 13:34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Surely, loving someone else as Jesus loved is includes fulfilling the Great Commission.



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