My friend, may I ask you a question? When we take the time to praise ourselves for Godly service are we putting usefulness before worship? Humility is the key to approaching Christian service; recognizing that God really doesn’t need us, but we him?
My friend, life’s a story, welcome to This Passing Day. I’m Mark Brunner.
When I was a boy my brothers and I helped my Dad with a garden plot that he rented from someone at church. My Mom and Dad had decided, due to a growing family and tightening budget, that they needed to expand their garden larder beyond the simple plot my Dad always maintained by the fence line at the corner of our backyard. For a year or two he did both. It was a large garden and he grew everything from green beans to potatoes. Although Dad normally just used a shovel and a rake to maintain the backyard garden, this new, larger plot required a rototiller and, of course, his sons. I still remember my Dad pushing that rented tiller and my brother Kurt and I following behind picking up stones and crushing the bigger clods of dirt the tines hadn’t broken. It was tedious but when we finished Kurt and I looked back over that huge garden and shook hands congratulating ourselves on a job well done. In that special way my Dad would clear his throat prior to one of his “dadly” comments, we heard that “Ahem!” and caught his rejoinder– “And who did the tilling? Without this tiller you’d be pretty useless.”
In Luke 10:20 Jesus reminds his disciples that they ought not to be patting themselves on the back for services provided. But, rather, they should glory in the fact that they are doing God’s will. When we take the time to praise ourselves for our service to the Lord then we are making ourselves useful first, and worshipful second–not a good combination. Humility is the key to approaching Christian service; recognizing that God really doesn’t need us, but we him?
Here’s a story. Academy Award-winning actor Charlton Heston (had not) always had rave reviews. He (once said that) he learned “The most valuable single truth about criticism” from Sir Laurence Olivier, the famous English actor: “We’d done a blank-verse play on Broadway... The critics slaughtered us–before the opening night party we were doomed. Forty minutes later I found myself alone in a restaurant with Olivier and a bottle of brandy. I was young, green and striving for mature detachment. Well, I said philosophically, I suppose you learn how to forget the bad notices.” Olivier gripped my elbow. “Laddie!” he said. “What’s much harder, and far more important ...you have to learn to forget the good ones.” He was right. (American Film, January 1992.)
Kurt and I were pretty proud of ourselves, but my Dad was quick to point out that our usefulness as clod hoppers and rock pickers was pretty much contingent on how hard he was pushing that tiller. We were serving our Dad and that tiller, as anyone can pick rocks and stomp on some dirt, since the tiller and my Dad were really doing the hard work. My Dad could have found someone else to do it or he could have simply tilled through the garden a second time, knocking down those clods on his own. It probably would have taken him all of ten minutes to pick the rocks. He was keeping us busy and allowing us the honor of working with him. Olivier was right in that regard; we all have the tendency to pat ourselves on the back for the good we do and its hard to remain humble when we regard ourselves too highly. You and I can avoid that temptation by simply reminding ourselves daily that our middle name isn’t “useful,” it’s Christian?
We pray. Heavenly Father, thank you for allowing us to serve you in the work that we do for your Kingdom. May we always keep that work in perspective, knowing that we are useful but not indispensable. Forgive us, Lord, when we pat ourselves on the back for what we do, forgetting what really matters is who we do it for. In Jesus name we pray. Amen!
Therefore my friend, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry for itself; each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matt 6:34) This Passing Day.
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