Academic journal article Baptist History and Heritage

Judson and Rice Talk to Baptists

Academic journal article Baptist History and Heritage

Judson and Rice Talk to Baptists

Article excerpt

I have two of those little yellow post-it notes that I want to stick to your souls this evening. They come in the handwritings of Adoniram Judson (1788-1850) and Luther Rice (1783-1836). Here is the first. It is in Judson's handwriting. It says: "Underliving is a tragic waste." "Be careful," Judson says, "don't underlive your life."

Judson got that idea from Jesus, who lived with an unmistakable sense of urgency about life. And Judson could not listen to Jesus about the importance of the only life Judson had and then casually go to the backyard of his New England home for a game of horseshoes. Neither can you nor I. What you do with the rest of your days matters to God. How you spend your life matters to Jesus. What you count important in life is a concern of Jesus.

One of life's greatest tragedies is a person with a ten-by-twelve potential and a two-by-four commitment. That is what you call an under-achiever, one who bites offless than she can chew! You remember Jesus' story about the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) and the three men. The master gave the first man five talents. He gave the second man two talents, and the last little fellow ended up with only one talent. I first read that story in my dorm room in my eighteenth year, and I have been chased by the story ever since.

The master returns to get an accounting of what each has done with what each has been given. The first two doubled their money and got a "Well done" from their master. When the little fellow with the one talent came before his master, he showed his one talent and said, "I was afraid and I went and buried it in the ground." What happened next was close to verbal abuse. The master, as we use to say in Mississippi, cleaned the little fellow's plow. He called him names. He faulted his judgment. He punished him for unnecessary timidity.

I always wished Jesus had given us their ages. My best guess is that the first two guys graduated from college last spring. Their parents had paid their way through life, and they did not know the value of a dollar. They had learned risk-taking with other people's money at an early age. So, during a down market, these two youngsters went out and bet high and hard and doubled their money. The third guy, the one with only one talent, the one who was so cautious and conservative ... I know exactly how old he was. He was sixty-eight years old. Because that is my age, and sixty-eight is old enough for the bumps and bruises of life to instill unusual caution.

Since first reading the story, I have tended to side with the one who drew the little hand. In defense, I want to ask, "What's the big problem?" He was only being careful. Could he help it if he was inherently conservative? Can you? Had he lost anything? Had he blown anything with senseless living? He had not scorned what he had been given; he was only trying to preserve it. "What had he done?" I ask. The answer is nothing, and that is the whole point of Jesus' parable. The message of Jesus' parable is a warning to not underlive life. (1)

Is it really any wonder to anybody that Rick Warren has been on the New York Times best-selling list for weeks with a simple book entitled The Purpose Driven Life? No one has to try and scare us with hell anymore, do they? We know what hell is now. It is that garbage dump on the southwest corner of Jerusalem to which Jesus pointed and said, "Don't let that happen to you. Don't end up that way. That's waste. That's refuse. That doesn't matter. Make your life count. Don't chase the trivial, the frivolous, and the superficial in life. Invest the time you have left in something that will matter. Help somebody who is down get up. Feed someone who is hungry. Bind up some wounds. Be involved in something significant because Hell ... Hell is an unlived life."

Judson and Rice really believed that truth, and they acted upon it. In their twenties, these two young men from New England encouraged the Congregational churches, of which they were members, to organize a foreign missionary society to send them out as America's first foreign missionaries from any denomination of any kind. …

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