Before Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood went on the air, before he stepped into the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, before he took his daily swim, Fred Rogers read his Bible.
Reading the Bible is not an unusual habit. The way Fred read it was. Biographer Maxwell King notes,
Fred Rogers got up every morning between 4:30 and 5:30 A.M. to read the Bible and prepare himself for the day before he went to the Pittsburgh Athletic Association to swim. But Roger’s preparation was not so much professional as it was spiritual: He would study passages of interest from the Bible, and then he would visualize who he would be seeing that day, so that he would be prepared to be as caring and giving as he could be. Fred’s prayers in those early morning sessions were not for success or accomplishment, but rather for the goodness of heart to be the best person he could be in each of the encounters he would have that day.
I don’t read the Bible to win God’s favor, to get a gold star on some heavenly Bible reading chart. Jesus’ work on my behalf means I am already favored. Instead, I open my Bible to get to know God better, to walk more fully in his ways, and like James admonishes, to be a “doer of the word.” And that’s where Fred Rogers approach helps me:
Study the passage.
Visualize who I will see this day.
Ask God to help me live out his Word in my daily encounters with others.
“Living out God’s Word, or to use King’s description, being “prepared to be as caring and giving as he could be” is at the root of what James admonishes in his letter:
22 But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 Because if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like someone looking at his own face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of person he was. 25 But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer who works—this person will be blessed in what he does. James 1:22-25 CSB
God’s blessings flow as God’s Word flows through us. So why not try the “Fred Method” this morning. Take a few moments and read what God has to say about favoritism. Study the passage. Visualize who you will see. Then ask God to help you live out his word before them today:
1 My brothers and sisters, do not show favoritism as you hold on to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. 2 For if someone comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and a poor person dressed in filthy clothes also comes in, 3 if you look with favor on the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Sit here in a good place,” and yet you say to the poor person, “Stand over there,” or “Sit here on the floor by my footstool,” 4 haven’t you made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Didn’t God choose the poor in this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? 6 Yet you have dishonored the poor. Don’t the rich oppress you and drag you into court? 7 Don’t they blaspheme the good name that was invoked over you?
8 Indeed, if you fulfill the royal law prescribed in the Scripture, Love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing well. 9 If, however, you show favoritism, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the entire law, and yet stumbles at one point, is guilty of breaking it all. 11 For he who said, Do not commit adultery, also said, Do not murder. So if you do not commit adultery, but you murder, you are a lawbreaker.
12 Speak and act as those who are to be judged by the law of freedom. 13 For judgment is without mercy to the one who has not shown mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
James 2:1-12 CSB
“Lord, help me love my neighbor. May mercy triumph. May your blessings flow.”
“Fred Rogers got up every morning . . .” from The Good Neighbor: The Life And Work Of Fred Rogers, by Maxwell King. New York: Abrams Press. 2018. Page 317.