The M&M Factor

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Touring rock stars can make some unusual demands.

When Eminem is overseas, he asks that his hosts provide Taco Bell menu items imported from the United States.  Kanye West demands a slushy machine in his dressing room – one that generates an ice-cold mashup of Coke, lemonade, Grey Goose, and Hennessy.

Jack White requests fresh guacamole whipped up according to a specific recipe.  In her heyday, Madonna insisted on a personal vegan chef and provisions for a 200-person entourage.

Then there’s Van Halen, the most famous party band of the 1980s.

Their legendary tours featured nine 18-wheel semis loaded with sound equipment, stage gear, and elaborate special effects.  Concerts were over-the-top entertainment events that required hours of careful preparation.  Therefore even small mistakes could be highly consequential. 

The rockers crafted a 53-page manifesto which itemized hundreds of specific contractual requirements.  It was sent months in advance to each concert host.

Dressing room snacks were specified on page 40.  The text read:  “Potato chips with assorted dips, nuts, pretzels, twelve (12) Reese’s peanut butter cups, twelve (12) assorted Dannon yogurt (on ice).” There was also this infamous request in capital letters:  “M&M’s (WARNING: ABSOLUTELY NO BROWN ONES).”

Lest we conclude that Van Halen’s quartet of rock superstars had taken egocentric pettiness to a new low, requiring some entry-level roadie to sort through an entire bag of M&Ms, lead singer David Lee Roth set the record straight in his memoir Crazy from the Heart.

The M&M provision was a test.  Had the local concert promoter actually read the provisions of the contract?

Roth writes, “So, when I would walk backstage, if I saw a brown M&M in that bowl … well, line-check the entire production.  Guaranteed you’re going to arrive at a technical error.  They didn’t read the contract.  Guaranteed you’d run into a problem.  Sometimes it would threaten to just destroy the whole show.  Something like, literally, life-threatening.”

Today the brown M&M provision is routinely praised by business consultants around the world. 

It appears we really can learn important lessons from the School of Rock. 

In the ancient Near East, Jews and Christians became known as “the people of the Book.”  That stands in contrast to the major religions of the East, where there is little notion of revelation – that is, a single Voice revealing timeless truths about the universe and God’s directives for human life.

Over the centuries, spiritual maturity in the West came to be associated with knowing and obeying the words of Scripture.   

Jesus, commenting on the Old Testament, makes this astonishing statement:

“Don’t suppose for a minute that I have come to demolish the Scriptures – either God’s Law or the Prophets.  I’m not here to demolish but to complete.  I am going to put it all together, pull it all together in a vast panorama.  God’s Law is more real and lasting than the stars in the sky and the ground at your feet.  Long after stars burn out and earth wears out, God’s Law will be alive and working.  Trivialize even the smallest item in God’s Law and you will only have trivialized yourself.  But take it seriously, show the way for others, and you will find honor in the kingdom” (Matthew 5:17-19, The Message).

In other words, every Bible verse matters.

But are all Bible verses really equal?

They’re far from equal when it comes to their relevance to life in the 21st century.  Not every verse is likely to inspire us.  Or speak to us.  Some are major headscratchers.  Some seem downright offensive. 

But as Jesus makes clear, every biblical statement is significant – even if a great many of them belong to chapters of spiritual history that we find hard to comprehend.

As People of the Book, our task becomes clear.  We are to be students of God’s “contract” with humanity – his original covenant of love with the children of Abraham, and how Jesus the Messiah – one of Abraham’s descendants – fulfilled every provision of that covenant in such a way that the whole world can now know God. 

That means we’re called to make God’s Book our own. 

And then – most important of all – to actually do what God is asking us to do in the present moment.   

It’s safe to say we won’t be instructed to divide up our Halloween M&Ms this weekend.

But we can be sure that the deeper we dive into God’s Word, the closer we’ll get to God’s heart.