The abbreviation “etc.” comes from the Latin phrase, et cetera, which means “and other similar things”, or “and so forth”. We most often use this abbreviation when going through a long list of similar items. We use it to indicate that many other items, like the ones named, belong in this list. In the 1956 film, The King and I, Yul Brynner, playing the King of Siam, used this phrase to impress Anna with his great knowledge, and with the fact that he was too important to convey the details of that knowledge.
This abbreviation is common in all areas of life, even in religious or spiritual contexts. Recently, a post on social media made an interesting and unique use of the abbreviation, “etc.” In this post the writer said that “etc.” stood for, “Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas” Christians. Upon consideration, the writer appears to have hit the nail squarely on the head.
His definition is correct on two levels. The most obvious is that there is a large body of professed believers who only show up for worship on the major holidays. Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving weekend, and Christmas are all times when church buildings are generally filled. The happy noise of children of all ages in the company of parents and grandparents is a heart-warming sound. We are uplifted by the presence of so many on these special occasions. However, the rest of the year many of these same children and adults are nowhere to be seen on the Lord’s Day.
The second way that “etc.” correctly defines some professed believers is in the realization that this abbreviation is somewhat of a “throw-away” term in our language. Like the King of Siam, we cast this term around to mask deficiencies in our knowledge of some particular subject. Or, we use it to show our general disinterest in the topic at hand. It is this usage that makes “etc.” fit the holiday-only crowd. They attend worship on special occasions to make a show of their professed faith, but their actions the rest of the year actually indicate their disinterest in spiritual things.
The Lord spoke of such attitudes in one of His confrontations with the scribes and Pharisees of His day. In Mt. 15:8 He said of them, “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me.” In context, the Lord was speaking specifically of the many traditions which these Jews had implemented that were actually contrary to God’s word. These traditions showed that they truly didn’t honor or respect God’s word. The spirit which led them to do these things is, in fact, the same spirit which makes “etc.” Christians comfortable with their practices. They say they love the Lord, but their actions show that they truly don’t respect God and His word.
The Lord told His disciples that unless their righteousness exceeded that of the scribes and Pharisees, they would not enter the kingdom of heaven (Mt. 5:20). He said this, not to urge them to become better law-keepers than their leaders were, but rather to urge them to become genuine disciples instead of self-serving hypocrites, like them. In practical application, this meant that they would follow God’s word, first, last, and always as they went about their daily walk. They would put God first, and rely on Him to provide for all their needs (Mt. 6:33). They would make God’s word a living part of their lives so it would truly be a lamp to their feet and a light to their path (Psa. 119:105).
Let each of us become whole-hearted followers of Jesus, instead of “etc.” believers. Let us truly be faithful until death (Rev. 2:10), so we will be welcomed into heaven at the end of time.