I remember seeing a news program that was reporting on infant mortality in a certain African nation. The focus of this segment was on an organization that was taking measures to prevent the death of newborns in the poorest of villages by handing out “birthing packets”. These birthing packets contained little more than a plastic sheet and a sterile knife, but the villages where these packets were handed out saw a massive decrease in infant mortality. Interestingly enough, in the villages where the packets were SOLD, as opposed to given away, the number of infant deaths decreased significantly further. So in areas where they made it just a little more difficult to receive help, the people actually received greater benefit from the birthing packet.
The psychology behind this is that when something is too easy to get, it often possesses little value to the receiver and is more easily misplaced or overlooked. When people had something invested in the packets, their children were more likely to live. There was nothing actually wrong with the free packets, it’s just that they may have been too easy to get.
Similarly, the same psychology comes in to play when you are talking about information. Do you ever think we can devalue a message by making it too easy, too obvious, or oversimplified? In the same way that the birthing packets that were easy to “get” had less of an effect on the community, could a message that is too easy to “get” also lack influence? Do you think that sometimes it helps a message if people have to invest a bit of thought into it?
Personally, I believe it’s for this very reason that Paul called the gospel a “mystery”. If this is true, then I want to know why we seem to be so afraid of any kind of mystery in our modern faith? Why do we feel like we always have to have the answers?
Jesus had a fascinating mystery about him. Mathew said he always delivered his message in the fashion of a story (Matt 13:34). He often said things that even his own disciples didn’t understand. In fact, because of one such message in John 6 he lost many of his followers including some of his innermost circle. The interesting thing is that they didn’t leave because they disagreed with him. They left because they didn’t understand. And even more interesting is the fact that Jesus knew they misunderstood and never attempted to explain. Jesus obviously knew what he was doing. His 3-year campaign has probably had greater affect on mankind than any other event in history.