Who Moved My Cheese? An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life, published on September 8, 1998, is a motivational tale by Spencer Johnson written in the style of a parable or business fable. The text describes change in one’s work and life, and four typical reactions to said change by two mice and two “littlepeople”, during their hunt for cheese. A New York Times business bestseller upon release, Who Moved My Cheese? remained on the list for almost five years and spent over 200 weeks on Publishers Weekly’s hardcover nonfiction list. It has sold more than 26 million copies worldwide in 37 languages and remains to be one of the best-selling business books. Can the lessons learnt from this motivational tale be applied to our faith?
Allegorically, Who Moved My Cheese? features four characters: two mice, “Sniff” and “Scurry,” and two little-people, miniature humans in essence, “Hem” and “Haw.” (The names of the little-people are taken from the phrase “hem and haw”, which is a American slang term for indecisiveness.) They live in a maze, a representation of one’s environment, and look for cheese, representative of happiness and success. Initially without cheese, each group, the mice and humans, paired off and traveled the lengthy corridors searching for cheese. One day both groups happen upon a cheese-filled corridor at “Cheese Station C”. Content with their find, the humans establish routines around their daily intake of cheese, slowly becoming arrogant in the process.
Are we complacent in our faith? Has our faith been reduced into a system of form and ceremony? Has the command to assemble (Hebrews 10:25) and commune (1 Corinthians 11) been elevated above almost every other command/instruction of God: such as the commands to sincerely love, encourage one another, use (but not abuse) our talents, greet each other upon sight, know each other by name, strive to be a true spiritual family, grow in meaningful knowledge, spur fellow Christians on to good deeds and spiritual thinking, proactively raise our children in Christ (not merely bring them to church), etc.?
One day Sniff and Scurry arrive at Cheese Station C to find no cheese left, but they are not surprised. Noticing the cheese supply dwindling, they have mentally prepared beforehand for the arduous but inevitable task of finding more cheese. Leaving Cheese Station C behind, they begin their hunt for new cheese together.
Are we willing to leave our comfort zones or routines to search for spiritual food to nourish our faith? Do we check up with the Bible to see if where we are at is where God wants us to be?
Later that day, Hem and Haw arrive at Cheese Station C only to find the same thing, no cheese. Angered and annoyed, Hem demands, “Who moved my cheese?” The humans have counted on the cheese supply to be constant, and so are unprepared for this eventuality. After deciding that the cheese is indeed gone they get angry at the unfairness of the situation and both go home starved. Returning the next day, Hem and Haw find the same cheeseless place. Starting to realize the situation at hand, Haw thinks of a search for new cheese. But Hem is dead set in his victimized mindset and dismisses the proposal.
Do we take charge of our spiritual development or do we blame others for our spiritual dryness or lack of zeal? Do we finds ways (e.g. attend retreats, talks, and courses) to improve our spiritual lives or do we just stick to our old routines and wait for miracles to happen?
Meanwhile, Sniff and Scurry have found “Cheese Station N”, new cheese. Back at Cheese Station C, Hem and Haw are affected by their lack of cheese and blame each other for their problem. Hoping to change, Haw again proposes a search for new cheese. However, Hem is comforted by his old routine and is frightened about the unknown. He knocks the idea again. After a while of being in denial, the humans remain without cheese. One day, having discovered his debilitating fears, Haw begins to chuckle at the situation and stops taking himself so seriously. Realizing he should simply move on, Haw enters the maze, but not before chiseling “If You Do Not Change, You Can Become Extinct” on the wall of Cheese Station C for his friend to ponder.
Do we make a sincere effort to encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ? Do we go out of our way to show hospitality to every Christian who is willing? Jesus implied that we are to greet even our enemies; why then do many Christians these days not even greet their fellow Christians in small assemblies? No wonder outsiders often find some of our churches uninviting and distant. If we really consider members of our Christian family to be brothers and sisters, we should sincerely act like family. Brothers and sisters know each others’ names, and greet each other upon sight as well.
Still fearful of his trek, Haw jots “What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid?” on the wall and, after thinking about that, he begins his venture. Still plagued with worry (perhaps he has waited too long to begin his search…), Haw finds some bits of cheese that nourishes him and he is able to continue his search. Haw realizes that the cheese has not suddenly vanished, but has dwindled from continual eating. After a stop at an empty cheese station, Haw begins worrying about the unknown again. Brushing aside his fears, Haw’s new mindset allows him to again enjoy life. He has even begun to smile again! He is realizing that “When you move beyond your fear, you feel free.” After another empty cheese station, Haw decides to go back for Hem with the few bits of new cheese he has managed to find.
Have we asked the Lord for living water that will become in us a spring welling up to eternal life (John 4:14)? Have we discovered the new mindset that will allow us to enjoy life in both good and bad times?
Uncompromising, Hem refuses the new cheese, to his friend’s disappointment. With knowledge learned along the way, Haw heads back into the maze. Getting deeper into the maze, inspired by bits of new cheese here and there, Haw leaves a trail of writings on the wall (“The Handwriting On the Wall”). These clarify his own thinking and give him hope that his friend will find aid in them during his search for new cheese. Still traveling, Haw one day comes across Cheese Station N, abundant with cheese, including some varieties that are strange to him, and he realizes he has found what he is looking for. After eating, Haw reflects on his experience. He ponders a return to see his old friend. But Haw decides to let Hem find his own way.
Do we share our Bible knowledge with our brothers and sisters in Christ? Do we proclaim the message of God like the prophets and apostles of old so that others may come to know Him? Private teaching is very important to a church’s growth. Sadly, it is almost totally lacking in some churches. Let people know you will study with them. If you don’t feel you have knowledge, then make yourself available to be taught privately as well. You’ll learn much more this way. Then you can learn—as the Bible commands—be a teacher yourself (Hebrews 5:12-14). Every Christian must grow into this role, men and women alike.
Cautious from past experience, Haw now inspects Cheese Station N daily and explores different parts of the maze regularly to prevent any complacency from setting in. After hearing movement in the maze one day, Haw realizes someone is approaching the station. Unsure, Haw hopes that it is his friend Hem who has found the way.
Are we spiritually-minded? If we aren’t, we are not among God’s children (Romans 8). People can quickly tell if we are spiritually-minded by what we like to talk about (“out of the overflow of your heart the mouth speaks”). We cannot hide it. Being spiritually-minded means thinking and meditating on the word of God very often. If we do that, we will also want to talk about what we are often meditating on. We will love Bible discussions and Bible studies, not avoid them. Also, we should encourage spiritual-mindedness in others by often-discussing matters of the spirit with our Brothers and Sisters, and hopefully they will find their path to holiness someday. Encouraging one another spiritually is a command for all God’s people.
St. Paul told the Colossians: “Therefore, just as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to walk in him, firmly rooted and built up in Him, established in the faith—just as you were taught—and overflowing with thankfulness.” (Colossians 2:6-7) Our faith must be strong, with roots of knowledge deeply implanted in God’s word, so that when the tribulations of life come along—no matter how violent to our lives—our faith in Christ, and obedience to Him, remain strong and steadfast, immovable as a rock. On the contrary, if we are complacent and are comforted by our old routines, we might one day exclaim “Who moved my faith?” when the storms of life strike us.