Where Have All the Manners Gone?

Etiquette has all but gone out of style. In a world focused on selfies, pot-stirring posts, road rage, and entitlement, the “niceties” of our grandparents’ era have flown out the proverbial window. When I was first married, my mother-in-law gave me her copy of the Military Wives’ Etiquette Handbook. I scoffed when I read passages that referred to gloves and the girdle-wearing directives that were common in her generation of Navy wifing, but some of the foundational instructions were spot on. Courtesy, manners, proper small talk at large events, the appropriate use of forks and elbows at the table … there was a code, and we all lived by it.

Now people wear pajamas in church, fight (sometimes with their fists) with flight attendants over FAA regulations, drive as though they are the only ones on the highway, and think nothing of cutting you off at the gas station or the grocery check-out line.

Where are our manners?

In the sixth chapter of Matthew, Jesus gave us instruction on prayer and giving to the poor etiquette. In short, he advises that we approach these things with sincerity and avoid attention:

Matthew 6 (Common English Bible)

6 “Be careful that you don’t practice your religion in front of people to draw their attention. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

“Whenever you give to the poor, don’t blow your trumpet as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets so that they may get praise from people. I assure you, that’s the only reward they’ll get. But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing so that you may give to the poor in secret. Your Father who sees what you do in secret will reward you.

Showy prayer

“When you pray, don’t be like hypocrites. They love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners so that people will see them. I assure you, that’s the only reward they’ll get. But when you pray, go to your room, shut the door, and pray to your Father who is present in that secret place. Your Father who sees what you do in secret will reward you.

I once heard a wonderful speaker named Terry Tykle liken prayer to playing the lottery. He said that just as people buy more tickets to increase their chance of winning, some of us use more words when we pray to try to increase our chance of getting God’s attention. Jesus agrees that this is not a good or necessary practice:

Proper prayer

“When you pray, don’t pour out a flood of empty words, as the Gentiles do. They think that by saying many words they’ll be heard.Don’t be like them, because your Father knows what you need before you ask.

I love that last sentence. Your Father knows what you need before you ask. A plethora of words isn’t necessary … just a sincere word that comes from a genuine heart.

God loves when we approach our religious life with humility. After all, his son approached the cross that way. So when you have the opportunity to give, share, lead, and pray, remember Jesus’ example and do it quietly. That is the best way to shine a light on your relationship with God.

After all, he knows.

God Knows by Lynn Benson

Always

What are the things that should remain always? Love. Patience. Generosity. Kindness. Chocolate.

The Scriptures are full of things that should remain and rule the day. When Jesus left, he gave us marching orders to go and share the gospel and baptize in his name. Then he reminded us that he would be with us always.

Life can be devoid of “always.” Relationships, jobs, good health, promises, and your home zip code will all change and fall away in an average lifetime, but thankfully, the spiritual things remain even in the vacuum of our expectations and experiences.

Paul had some things to say about the ‘alwaysness’ of things. He gave the church at Thessolonica marching orders that announced a benediction of instructions for the rest of time.

Show respect.

Live in peace.

Warn the disorderly.

Comfort the discouraged.

You can read Paul’s manifesto in the verses of this passage. These were the things that were important to him:

1 Thessalonians 5 (Common English Bible)

12 Brothers and sisters, we ask you to respect those who are working with you, leading you, and instructing you. 13 Think of them highly with love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. 14 Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are disorderly. Comfort the discouraged. Help the weak. Be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure no one repays a wrong with a wrong, but always pursue the good for each other and everyone else.

These are timeless words for the way we live today. If politicians, administrations, senators, governors, media moguls, CEOs etc. were to live by these rules, the ridiculous click-bait-driven vitriol that consumes us would cease and we would actually have a chance to live in peace with one another.

Paul calls us to help the weak and be patient with one another. What does that say to you today? Where can you deliver a word of comfort to someone who needs it? Are you becoming frustrated with a situation that requires an additional measure of patience? I lost a fight with a coffee maker way too early this morning while a two-year-old was loudly calling my name. Lord, give me patience and give it to me RIGHT NOW!

16 Rejoice always. 

Of all the things Paul says, this may be the most challenging, especially if you find yourself suddenly submerged in betrayal, abuse, or illness.

I have a friend who took a hard fall that rendered him hospitalized for sixty days. For sixty days his amazing wife posted updates while we all responded with encouraging words and prayers. For sixty days, even in the darkest times, even on the day when their daughter had to be walked down the aisle by her brothers because he was in a coma, this faithful wife posted pictures of the celebration with a sense of rejoicing that surpassed all reason. When he finally was well enough to communicate with the world again, we all rejoiced.

I know she was scared. I know she was exhausted. I know she was frustrated. But through her faithful and positive countenance, rejoicing had already carried the day.

17 Pray continually. 18 Give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Don’t suppress the Spirit. 20 Don’t brush off Spirit-inspired messages,21 but examine everything carefully and hang on to what is good.22 Avoid every kind of evil. 23 Now, may the God of peace himself cause you to be completely dedicated to him; and may your spirit, soul, and body be kept intact and blameless at our Lord Jesus Christ’s coming. 24 The one who is calling you is faithful and will do this.

This last bit is perhaps the key to it all. PRAY CONTINUALLY. I believe it is all connected: praying continually>respect>giving and receiving comfort>finding patience>rejoicing in all things>giving thanks. Prayer is the key.

When we pray continually in all things, we open ourselves to the unlimited power of God and the unfathomable Spirit-inspired messages that we receive when we sit in God’s presence. There, we find strength to resist evil and grasp peace.

Do you lack peace? Do you need guidance? Are you frustrated as all get-out? There is something you can do … pray continually. And when you are finished, pray some more.

Always by Ginger Endreson