The scripture today addresses a few things I found intriguing, mostly regarding perceived righteousness.
We have all sorts of ideas about what is “good”. Let’s take a look at what we think, even as a Christian sub-culture, and what the Bible says about it.
Imprisoned and free
The difference between a Christian and a non-Christian is not “behavior”. I’ve seen cruelty and bitterness from brothers and sisters in Christ, and I’ve seen unrelenting kindness from people lacking any religious affiliation.
Christians are inherently free from sin’s consequences, past or future. The prison door is unlocked; strangely, many Christians choose to linger inside the cell filled with rotting corpses and dilapidated walls, lingering in condemnation and “working” to get out when their state is already “innocent”.
There is also a leaning to please God as a Christian. Those who do not have Christ might be unselfish in their activity, but their motive has nothing to do with God, so “worshiping” the self is not far off and even welcomed. Christians have a perspective beyond this earth, fueled by love from beyond this earth, so that others might know it. They’re “free” from the restraints of a planet, or even a universe, to do things for a sake beyond themselves and a temporal, decaying environment.
A particular sermon shook me up a few years ago, which was centered around a couple verses about being useful:
20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. 21 Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.
Christians are supposed to be useful. Unfortunately, there are way too many of us warming up cushioned seats every week and writing checks for the local church to cash, depending on the pastor or laymen to do the work. We’re tuned-up and polished instruments that God has created for His use. It doesn’t help if we’re still sitting in the case, or worse, playing horrible music that no one can stand listening to. Do something — it doesn’t have to be dramatic, or the equivalent of composing a symphony. Even a brief lullaby puts people at ease and is memorable.
Most of us clock in for work five days a week and, hopefully, until we punch out after a set amount of time, we’ve spent the time earning our wages for the day. We spend the time doing the work, and we get paid for it.
What are we “earning” with the remainder of our time? Indeed, all of us need rest after working, but every moment we breathe, we are either working for sin, or we are working for righteousness. The wage, the earnings, the check that’s written, is death if we work for sin. But if we work for God, we strive for righteousness.
However, we cannot earn this ourselves — it is a gift. We have no right to call ourselves good for any reason, because, even in great acts of goodness, God is the only entity that can accurately perceive our hearts. And it is within our hearts that we earn righteousness, not with our hands or intentions.