Christianity 201

March 19, 2023

Table Topics

For those of you who don’t live alone, what do you talk about over breakfast, or lunch, or supper?

If you grew up in a tradition where the sacredness of sharing a meal was stressed, it’s possible that your conversations might take on a more spiritual tone, or delve into spiritual subjects. But in today’s rushed world, it’s possible that the formality of everyone commencing the meal at the same moment, and staying until everyone leaves at the same time has been lost to a pattern of family members not being gathered for meals, or worse, perhaps just filling a plate and then heading back to their laptop or personal computer. Conversations might be short, or even non-existent, giving a new meaning to the term fast food.

And let’s not even talk about pausing to “say grace.” That’s a practice that seems to be tending toward extinction, even in committed Christian homes. We’ll save that for another day.

And we also won’t get into the whole intimacy of “breaking bread” together, both in a Hebraic historic context, or in the spirit of the intimacy still experienced therein among people in Eastern cultures.

Rather, I want to consider table topics.

I started thinking about this when the verse in my NIV Bible App — the very first thing I open when I power up my phone for the day — was this passage from Deuteronomy 6:

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

The overall theme of the chapter might be described as lawgiving. The previous chapter contains a reiteration of the Ten Commandments, originally introduced in Exodus.

[Rabbit Trail: For an interesting comparison look at the similarities and differences between the Exodus and Deuteronomy versions of the Ten Commandments, click this link to a Jewish commentary.]

In the NIV, the whole chapter has the added heading “Love the LORD your God.” This is contained in a verse preceding our text for today, verse 5: “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”  When asked which is the greatest commandment, Matthew 22, Mark 12, and Luke 10 tell us that Jesus skips the “big ten” in Deuteronomy 5, and goes directly to the two verses in Deuteronomy 6:4-5 which immediately precede the two we’re looking at.

Which brings us to our verses. They might be summed up this way:

  • input God’s commands on your hearts
  • impart them to your kids
  • involve them in your family conversations; morning and evening; even on road trips
  • inscribe them on your hands (your work?) and foreheads (your thoughts?)
  • imprint them at key places in your home.

(Like that summary? I just made it up as I was typing?)

The first two involves making God, faith in God, the knowledge of God, intimacy with God, etc., something that’s a major part of your everyday lives as individuals and as a family.

The last two are interesting because they talk about having a physical representation or reprinting of the scripture something you carry on your physical body and have as part of the décor of your home. That last one is probably posted in the offices of many Christian giftware companies, but today continues to find more literal expression through the use of the mezuzahs mounted on the doorposts of Jewish homes. Orthodox Jews also continue to literally tie the commandments to their arms and foreheads in the form of phylacteries. (Do a search engine image search if these two terms are unfamiliar to you.)

Which brings us back to that middle one, and the subject of today’s devotional: What do you talk about over breakfast, or lunch, or supper?

If your family contains people who have a mixture of beliefs, perhaps you live by the adage, ‘There’s two things you don’t talk about over a meal — politics and religion.’ But if you have a Christian family, discussions of doctrine, theology, or simply revisiting one of the gospel narratives should be the center of lively, engaging conversation. (We do this ourselves; some might find our meals like sitting around the table with a bunch of theology nerds. You would be correct in that assumption!)

This is not the same as talking about church. It’s not about reviewing why the pastor’s sermon seemed so long, or what can be done about the youth group spending far more than their allotted budget. It means talking about belief, Jesus, ethics, practices, prayer, missionaries; and perhaps also talking about world events in a Christian context, which is embodied in the idea of praying or preaching with the Bible in one hand and a newspaper in another.

It doesn’t mean you can’t talk about the hometown sports team, a planned vacation, or the latest report cards the kids brought home from school. But it means that the conversation is highly flavored with talk about God and the Kingdom of God.

Repeating that often overlooked middle part again:

Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

It’s about first thing in the morning, last thing at night, and your commute to work, the latter of which, if you travel to work alone, is a great time to listen to Christian teaching on radio, or Christian podcasts you’ve downloaded, or an audio version of the Bible.

…My own heart in writing this is especially for those of you with kids still at home. BibleHub.com provides a related verse, Psalm 78:4.

We will not hide these truths from our children; we will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the LORD, about his power and his mighty wonders. (NLT)

Tomorrow, we’ll look back at some writing which first appeared here in 2014, which begins with this quotation:

A spiritual community that does not transmit its sacred writings to its children is one generation away from extinction.

Parents, you’re in charge. What does your family talk about as you have opportunity to control the conversation?