WHILE BIBLE scholars divide the scriptures into categories such as history, poetry, prophecy, law, and letters, I have noted before that I prefer to mentally separate them into forms of written communication, ranging from love notes to warrants. I’ve recently added another folder to this personal filing cabinet: backstage rider.
It came to me recently when I was working my way through the book of Exodus, where Moses is passing along all the instructions for building the ark of the covenant and the tabernacle. One morning as I read about cubits and curtains, gold and goatskins, I found myself thinking about Van Halen. Not the most obvious of associations, perhaps—given the band’s reputation as among the baddest boys of rock, and their catalog, which includes the likes of “Runnin’ With the Devil.”
However, my mind went not to their music, but to their management style. The band has long been famous for its 1980s backstage rider—the document detailing its requirements to venues—that included the setting out of a bowl of M&Ms, with the brown ones removed. This stipulation was widely derided as symptomatic of rock and roll excess, and the pettiness of preening stars.
Only in more recent times has it been revealed that there was actually some clever method behind the apparent madness. As one of the biggest bands around, Van Halen had a hugely sophisticated sound-and-light system that taxed the capabilities of some of the venues they played during the years before many places were better equipped.
Their show required careful set-up and staging, without which there might be flaws or even accidents. So they set out all that needed to be done in a very detailed document—buried in the middle of which was the insistence on a bowl of brown-free M&Ms. A quick glance at the bowl when they arrived at the venue would tell them whether or not someone had carefully read everything in the rider, and indicate whether they could be confident all that was needed had been done.
While for a long time people scoffed at the M&Ms clause, they had missed the deeper meaning—just as they do when reading parts of the Bible. Getting hung up on some of the specifics, they fail to recognize that the small print isn’t really so much about rules as relationship. In other words, God is looking for those whose hearts are His, and whose devotion will provide a stage for Him from which to be seen by others.
Jesus didn’t hand out M&Ms, but He did say that “whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much” (Luke 16:10),
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