My husband is a planner—a list maker. And I’m glad about that because for 50 years he has kept us on track and on time. Calendarizing our lives has been one of his greatest contributions to the family. Items such as “put out the trash,” “change the air filters,” “make reservation for____,” “have tires rotated.” This way he doesn’t neglect any reoccurring tasks. Smart.

He plans short trips to run errands, too. If there are several items on the to-do list (and there always are) he thinks about going to the furthest destination and working backwards, toward home or his final stop. It makes sense timewise. That set of plans also includes as many right turns as is possible. No need to crisscross traffic. Make good use of your time.

I used to make fun of this habit, but now I find it endearing. And helpful. I’ve learned to trust it. I don’t worry about being late or forgetting an event. If it’s on the list, we do it.

Some of you are list makers, too. Most of the items, no matter how you structure the list, would probably fit into two categories: things to do and things to buy. But I believe there is one more category. Here’s why.

It wasn’t long ago that I began re-reading the Bible, not methodically, but here and there, back and forth, between Old Testament and New Testament—prophets and apostles—Psalms and Proverbs. I began to see a pattern, that most of the biblical contributors incorporated lists into their writings. I’m not sure if these were to help the reader to remember certain points or to help the writer remember those points. Either way, I found that the lists served three purposes:

  • Things to Do
  • Things to Remember
  • Things to Avoid

A major list in the Bible are the Ten Commandments, which were given to Moses directly from God on stone tablets. These fall into these three categories: things to do, things to remember, and things to avoid.

He begins with a reminder.

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” (Exodus 20:2)

A not-so-subtle reminder to the children of Israel as if to say: “Remember what I did for you. I brought you out of slavery—something that you begged of me for 400+ years.”

It’s not surprising that God prefaces His list with a reminder that His people had lived in a foreign land and had been relegated to years of hard labor to appease the Pharaoh. Apparently, the enslavement had been gradual—not immediate. During famines among the Jewish nation, refugees from Israel came to Egypt to avoid starvation. When the Jews, before and during Moses’ time began to multiply, they were seen as a threat to the Egyptian population. The king began to demand hard labor from these people to accomplish his many egocentric building projects. Some of the Israelites had even forgotten that they were slaves, mostly because that’s all they ever knew.

We would do well to remember this same principle: we were once slaves ourselves and it was God who brought us out of slavery. Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.” (John 8:34) Perhaps like the Jews, we woke up one day and realized that we were not free. We had been overpowered by an evil force and we could not find a way out.

We become slaves to that which we obey, whether it be to our own desires, to the amassing of riches, or even to our own successes and failures.  

“So, if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed.” John 8:36

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