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Working the Angles

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 Eugene Peterson wrote a book called Working the Angles.  Even though pastors are the target audience of his book, the message applies to all of us.

Peterson takes a triangle and suggests that the lines of the triangle are the parts of our lives that everyone sees. The lines are the tasks you perform, the duties you fulfill, the responsibilities you have.

The angles of the triangle are the parts of your life that no one sees. 

The premise of the book is that your ability to do the things everyone sees is dependent on what you do with the parts of your life that no one sees. 

The temptation for all of us, though, is to put all our time and effort into the portions of our life that people see. The easiest things for us to neglect are the most important things of our lives, the things no one sees. 

But here is the warning of the book. If you neglect the angles that no one sees, eventually it will show up in the places everyone sees.

Recently I was reading the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. I was struck how Jesus also called us to work the angles. Like Peterson, Jesus was calling us to pay attention to the areas of our lives that no one sees.

Jesus began Matthew 6 with this word of encouragement, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them.”   

Jesus went on to list three activities that ought to be our practice when no one else is looking. In other words, Jesus is calling us to “work the angles.”

  • Freely give to the one in need
  • Cultivate a life of private prayer
  • Practice the discipline of fasting

Each of these quiet activities are to be done without any fanfare. Instead, they become a reflection of our heart for God.

As Christians there are certain practices we do that are visible to others. We come to church on Sunday. That is a visible activity. We put our offerings in the offering plate. That is a visible activity. We participate in the ministries of the church and serve others. That is a visible activity.

But if we do all these things without cultivating the “angles” of faith, it will eventually show up on the outside. 

If we want our activity, both visible and invisible, to be done for the love of God, then we must attend to the “invisible” matters of faith. We need to “work the angles.” 

Read Matthew 6:1-18 and meditate on these things.