Sunday, June 30, 2019

2 Kings 5.1-14: Something Easy

All Naaman has to do to be cured of leprosy is go wash in the river (2 Kings 5:1-14). You'd think he'd say, "Great! Five minutes and I'm done!" But, no. Naaman first expresses his offense at the sending of a messenger to deliver the cure. Surely Naaman was important enough for some kind of show by Elisha. Then Naaman expresses his disdain for the cure. Naaman needs to learn a lesson about looking a gift horse in the mouth.

And though he doesn't get that lesson, he does hear common sense from his servants. Not the first time servants have faciliated Naaman's cure. Remember it was an Israelite slave girl who first brings the prophet to Naaman's attention (5:2-3). The servants point out that Naaman was ready (eager, even) to do something big and involved to bring on the leprosy cure. Why would he complain about doing something simple?

It's a good question.

We often overcomplicate things. Rube Goldberg was a widely-known cartoonist in his day, popular enough that he was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for his cartoons and sought after as a spokesperson. Today we know him for his machines - wildly complicated inventions that used levers, pulleys, animals, balloons, and more to perform relatively simple tasks. His contraptions were so popular that his name has become synonymous with the idea of making something simple quite complicated. Like wiping your mouth with a napkin.
Rube Goldberg. Professor Butts and the Self-Operating Napkin. Originally published in Collier's, September 26, 1931
In the example above, Goldberg has developed a self-operating napkin. When the soup spoon (A) is raised to mouth, it pulls the string (B) and jerks the ladle (C), which throws the cracker (D) past the toucan (E). The toucan jumps after the cracker and the perch (F) tilts, upsetting the seeds (G) into the pail (H). Extra weight in the pail pulls the cord (I), which opens and ignites the lighter (J), setting off  a skyrocket (K), which causes the sickle (L) to cut the string (M), allowing the pendulum with the attached napkin to swing back and forth, thereby wiping the diner's chin. No effort at all.

Which of God's commands do we overcomplicate?

This week on Art&Faith Matters on Facebook, a three-river throwdown. Click here.
For thoughts on Luke 10:1-20, click here.

Each year there is a Rube Goldberg Machine contest. The task for 2019 was putting money in a piggy bank. The 2020 task is turning off a light. To see this year's winners, click here

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