So That No Man Shall Boast
Hello and welcome back to our little slice of the Internet my friend!
Today I am sitting on my bed in a patch of sunlight with my laptop perched on my legs. My dog is laying at the foot of the bed, and my legs are tired from our afternoon walk and a short pilates session. Life is good, but yet... I feel on edge.
And I know why.
Today when I was cruising my Instagram Explore page, I came across a post from another Instagram blogger. She was excitedly showing off some big news, and I felt myself feeling instantaneously envious. Soon enough, I felt the envy cycle through and transform into haughty resentment towards the Lord. Why wasn't I the girl in the picture? Why had God not given ME that blessing!? I wanted what she had, AND I was mad God didn't give it to me-- pathetic... I know.
Upon realizing that such emotions were filling my heart, my mind immediately went into overdrive, trying to patch things up and get back on course. I began thinking, "oh, well it's good that she got that blessing because they experienced some trials recently and she deserves it" and "oh, God just let her have that blessing because she's at the right place in her life right now, and maybe I'm not there yet." One by one the justifications came flying through my mind, trying to soothe my angry heart with explanations. I was essentially trying to justify God's decisions to let him off the hook for not blessing me in that way.
But as I'm sure you know.... this behavior is NOT Christlike.
Because if the justification for that girl getting the blessing I wanted is that she's a good person or that she's experienced hardship, then what is the justification for a bad or evil person receiving the blessing that I want? Plenty of terrible people receive things that I desire every single day, and there is truly no mental gymnastics I can pull off to justify such occurrences.
And that is the point.
I'm not supposed to do mental gymnastics to reasonably explain why God has given one person something and refused me the same thing. I'm not supposed to know, nor am I supposed to understand the way He works. He is God, and I am not.
This behavior comes from my own entitlement, and it is ultimately the fruit of living under the assumption that I can somehow earn God's blessings through my works. It's the assumption that I DESERVE blessings.
Instead of saying to myself, God gave HER something that I feel I deserve...God is mean, I should say what Job said in Scripture, "naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither. The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." KJV Job 1:21
God has already given me more than I deserve: forgiveness and eternal life with Him. He has written my name in the Book of Life, and is prepared to take on the weight of my sin, forgive me, and walk alongside me.
What greater earthly blessing could there be? What is more generous than the gift of forgiveness? And most importantly, who am I to explain the workings of God?
He sent His only Son to die on behalf of our sins, that the penalty for sin might be paid by His death. We are therefore justified through Christ and accepted therein to the Kingdom of Heaven. That is the only blessing I have ever been promised.
Everything else that we face, trials and temptations, are part of the human experience and intended by God to grow our faith. We are told that numerous times in Scripture!
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." James 1:2-4
We are not instructed to view trials with joy because we will be rewarded with earthly blessings: no. The reward for passing trials is that we may be mature and complete Christians. That is all. I should never try to grow my faith and use trials to become closer to Christ in order to "earn" the blessings my heart desires. That is a manipulative and double-minded way to serve God.
The motivation for serving God should never be because we want Him to give us earthly things. No. Pursuing God in order that we might receive earthly things like money, health, or fame is NOT pure worship.
We should serve God out of love for Him, with NO other motivation. We are commanded this numerous times in Scripture:
"Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength." Deuteronomy 6:4-5
"Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." Matthew 22:37
Worshiping and loving God with the ulterior motive to get Him to bless you is wrong. It is an idolization and worship, not of God, but of the thing your heart TRULY desires: the thing you're hoping He will give you if you're just faithful enough.
We cannot worship God with a pure heart if we only offer such sacrifices in the hopes that He will give us what we want. That kind of worship is detestable in God's eyes.
We can read an example of true worship in Mark 14:3-9.
The Anointing at Bethany
"And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head. But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and said, “Why was this fragrant oil wasted? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they criticized her sharply.
But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always. She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial. Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.”
The woman poured perfume on Jesus' head to show her love for Him: not because He was going to turn around and give her money or her heart's desire.
This is how we are to love and serve God: out of our own love for Him, and from the gratitude of what He has done for us. We are to love because He first loved us.
We should not try to be good people or to love God out of ulterior motivations, hoping that our good works can earn us good blessings. This is not right, but it is also ridiculous for us to think that we could ever earn God's goodness.
So today, instead of acting pridefully entitled to what I think God owes me, I will be focusing on thanking him for everything He has given me that I truly do NOT deserve.
Because if we truly COULD earn God's favor in the form of wealth, health, or fame, we would be able to boast in our own goodness and forget God's grace. As Ephesians 2:4-10 says,
"But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."
We have been raised up through Christ and ONLY Christ: not our works.
For if we were raised up by our works, we could truly boast in our own greatness, but this is not the case. Therefore, I hope that I might be humble and remember that anything good I have in this life has not be earned by my own goodness, but rather gifted to me out of God's generosity.
I cannot live a life where I assume to know the workings of God, nor should I try to explain away His choice to bless or withhold through my own flawed works-based morality system. God is God and He can bless who He wants. And anyways, our greatest treasures will not be the things we receive in this life, but the rewards we have stored up in Heaven.
The journey away from an entitled and prideful attitude is not easy, but by God's grace and the Holy Spirit, I feel him pruning and sanctifying me. Glory be to God.