HH Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: —Matthew 22:5
The King Was Earnest in His Invitation
One thing that strikes us in this parable is the intense earnestness of the king. It is quite clear that his whole heart is in the marriage. We have all had our share of heartless invitations. We have all been assured that they would be delighted to see us when we knew quite well that they would be still more delighted if we stayed away. And as the heart through altering ages keeps terribly true to its own mockeries, I have no doubt such spurious welcomes were as common in our Lord’s day as in ours. But this king was thoroughly in earnest. He was determined that those who were bidden should come. Servants were sent and on their heels more servants. And the feast was served, and the seats were empty, and the occasion was a marriage, and the host king; and “they made light of it and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise.”
There are, of course, some things that every wise man will make light of. There are petty grievances in every lot; there are trifling insults offered to every man and woman; there are words that irritate and sting and rankle, and there always will be such till the world comes to the perfect courtesy of Jesus. And will my heart be bound by spiders’ webs like these? And am I to worry and let the sun be darkened because every neighbour is not God’s gentlewoman? “Think, sir,” said Dr. Johnson to a worrying friend, “think, sir, how infinitely little that will seem a twelvemonth hence.” And a greater than Dr. Johnson had the secret too: “Our light affliction which is but for a moment.” It is an untold blessing to have a little vision and a little humour, and see things in their true sizes and proportions.
Frivolity Is a Dangerous Thing
But it is the corruption of the best that is the worst, and it is the overstraining of our instincts that degrades us, and it is the making light of everything that is our ruin. Do you think these guests had been serious and earnest men up till the hour when they received that invitation? Do you think their characters were twisted in a moment–changed from some unrecorded nobility into this pitiful mockery of the king? God does not tamper with a character like that. No man begins to be frivolous by mocking kings. They had made light of their mothers’ tenderness and love when they were children. They had made light of purity when they were youths. They had made light of conscience in their business. And now comes the invitation of the king, the decisive moment in their lives; and the past hinders them, and they are true to all that they have made themselves, and they made light of that.
Beware of Being Frivolous with God
O irresistible logic of a life! O sin, frivolity, tracking me like a bloodhound, and finding me out at last! I never meant to be frivolous with God. I never meant to snap my fingers at the love, and tenderness, and passionate invitations of the Saviour. But I made a jest of the sanctities of home. And I played fast and loose with love and duty. And I had a sneer for every noble character and an explanation of my own for every noble deed. Till now I find too plainly, yes, too plainly, that in making light of earnestness wheresoever found, of enthusiasm in whatsoever cause, and of unselfishness in any humble soul, I have been making light of God who gave the gifts, and of Christ who is calling me to feast with Him.
There Is a Difference between Being Frivolous and Being Joyful
These men, then, of our text were essentially frivolous. And I want to guard you now against a common mistake. I want you to remember that there is a whole world of difference between frivolity and a truly buoyant spirit. It is one thing to be a lightweight. It is quite another thing to be light-hearted. Many a solemn face is but a mask for an utterly frivolous and petty soul. And many a heart that is tremendously in earnest about life, has the most infectious laugh in the whole company. The Pharisees were most supremely solemn; but, on the testimony of Jesus, most supremely flippant. “But I wonder,” says Charles Kingsley, “if there is any home in England where there is so much laughter as there is in ours”; yet was there ever a home so filled with reverence for what is highest? We read in one of the old stories of the North, that when the hero fought his last fight in the great hall of Worms, every blow he struck was also a note of music; and that is no bad picture of the buoyant heart that carries something of heaven’s music into the din and dust of the battle of life. But when Rome was burning, Nero was fiddling; and all frivolity was gathered up in that. If the cheap merriment of fools be what you mean by happiness–be frivolous, be flippant to your heart’s content! But if there be a joy in life so deep that its roots are intertangled with all the roots of pain, and a great gladness that shines like a rainbow against the darkest sky, then in God’s Name do not be frivolous, take life in the royal manner, do not make light of the great truths and the great hopes and the great passions and the great God–the sun and moon and morning stars of the mystical universe of your heart and mine.
Frivolity Is Sometimes a Protest
I am quite, aware frivolity is sometimes a protest. It is the mad, wild gambolling of the dog that has been kept in the kennel and on the chain too long. When I read, for instance, the literature of the Restoration Period, and catch a sight through the pages of its drama of the shockingly frivolous life of the days of King Charles the Second, I feel at once that this is not natural; it is the reaction from the too stern spirit that called even the village Maypole sinful. And a wise father will be very careful that there is no room for that protest in his home. And a wise church will see to it that she never gives any cause for that reaction. A listless and lifeless congregation, where the great mysteries are never glorified, where the brightness of Jesus and of heaven never shines, and where to sing too beautifully is a crime, is one of the best instruments that Satan ever had for driving the young into frivolity. God help the church that sees a daily commentary on her deadness in the flippant lives of her young men and women. I want a church that shall be reverent, yet bright. I want a church that shall be deep, yet happy. I want a church that is true to the future as well as to the past. I want a church where our young men shall feel that joy is stern, that love is deep, that life is wonderful, that God is high. If I can build that Jacob’s ladder, even in a dream, I have made a path right to the feet of Christ.
Frivolity Is Utterly Insufficient for Life’s Journey
There is a double condemnation of frivolity: and the first thing that condemns it is this–it is utterly insufficient for life’s journey. There are worse bankruptcies than ever come before the courts. There are men who go bankrupt in hope, in aspiration, in ideal, long before the end. And life is far too grim, and sometimes far too sad, to be carried through with a frivolous heart. If there were no tears, no trial, no sorrow, no tragedy, no death, a frivolous heart might be equal to the great task of living. But when sorrow and trial are never far away, when tomorrow may find me standing by an open grave, when the undertone of all life’s song is Calvary, I need a sterner and a stronger spirit if I am to come victorious to the end. One touch of nipping frost and the gaudy insects of the summertime are gone. One winter’s storm and the frail pleasure-boat is swept on to the beach. One draught of bitterness and gall and death and the frivolous heart is helpless, impotent.
And is not that one task of sorrow in the world? It sobers, sanctifies: brings men and women to themselves again and bringing them to themselves leads them to God. Did you ever know a man or woman who was really frivolous after a great sorrow? But we have all known hearts whose jingling chords have been touched into a music of unexpected depth when the hand that touched them was the hand of death. Do you remember how the poet sings–
Then was the truth received into my heart,
That under heaviest sorrow earth can bring,
If from the affliction somewhere do not grow
The honour which could not else have been; a faith,
An elevation, and a sanctity;
If new strength be not given nor old restored,
The blame is ours, not nature’s.
Christ Was Not Frivolous; Therefore We Should Not Be
But for us who are Christians, there is another condemnation of frivolity. It is the fact that Jesus our Teacher and our Lord has mightily increased the seriousness of life. I could understand an old pagan being frivolous; for him, there was nothing infinite in man. But Jesus has come, and God has tabernacled and tabernacles still in man; and life has been lifted into heavenly meanings, and swung out through death into eternal ages; and when my life means fellowship, kinship with God, eternity, then to be frivolous is the antichrist.
Do Not Make Light of the Things of the Soul
Young men and women, you know I do not want you to be solemn. I do not wish you to be dull. I want your sky to be as bright as heaven. But as you have a life to live, and as you have a death to die, do not make light of the great things of the soul. Do not make light of duty. Do not make light of purity. Do not make light of sin. Do not make light of now. Above all, in all, through all, do not make light of Christ. For to be Christ’s is manhood, power, victory. And to make light of Christ is death.