My last post on the foundational importance of being rather than doing has brought some interesting questions. Thinking is a good thing.
Doers have been offended. As a doer, I understand that. We perfectionists place a lot of value in our commitments to excellence. We like our Daytimers and empty calendars present a challenge to be filled. A full calendar, we believe, shows that we are busy and important people. I confess, I like lists. I like to check tasks off my list. I will even add an already completed task to my list for the joy of drawing a line through it to mark it completed. Being a doer puts me in control. I like measurable goals. It’s the way I work.
The trouble comes when I start placing more value in my doing stuff for God than I put on spending time with God. God created me and you to be in relationship with Him. It’s His priority. It’s His love. It’s what we see in the famous Mary verses Martha conflict when Jesus came to visit (Luke 10:40-42).
I can identify with Martha. I can really feel for her. While she’s busy doing things to make her guests comfortable, Mary plops down on the floor to hang out with Jesus. I can picture Mary making herself comfortable, smiling and listening to Jesus. Martha is getting more and more steamed by the minute. I can imagine her possible thought process, “What does she think she’s doing? She knows there is stuff to do? How can she just be sitting there?”
It’s important to understand the historical context of the time period. Women were not welcomed to sit at the feet of a rabbi. In most circles it was forbidden. Women were servants who worked hard. Sadly, they were often seen more as property than people. And here we see Mary sitting at Jesus’s feet! Martha knows that her sister is well aware of what is allowable and what is not. This whole situation is just not allowable!
The revolutionary Jesus who routinely upset the religious leaders welcomed women and children and Samaritans and Gentiles is at it again. He touched lepers. He went to tax collectors’ houses. He valued people not for status, position, education, wealth or bloodline. He valued all people because, as I said in the last post, they are created in the image of God and He is very, very fond of them. Jesus comes to Mary’s defense saying she has chosen better to sit with Jesus. (He is not saying Martha should have dropped everything but that she is more than likely going overboard at the expense of what is truly important.)
Remember the criminals hanging on crosses? One mocked Jesus hanging near him and the other defended Jesus. He told the first criminal to back off (Luke 23:39-43) and admitted that both he and the other deserved to die but insisted that Jesus was innocent. Then, this guy who has absolutely nothing to offer, this guy who will be dead in a matter of hours asks Jesus to remember Him in Heaven. And Jesus says yes!
Why, on earth, would Jesus say yes to this guy? Why would He tell him that he would be in paradise with Him? The truth is, on earth, there is no rationale to explain this. The rationale is supernatural and beyond our earth system. Our earthly system says you are valuable because of what you do and what you contribute. God’s system of grace says you are valuable because He created you in His image and has a gift that you cannot earn. You cannot do enough. It is the reason an unworthy criminal hanging on a cross, about to die, is valued the same as the missionary, a worship leader or pastor. Our value is not in our doing, it is in our being.
Does that make you mad? Sometimes it bugs me that the person I determine “scum” is not scum to my Father. Of course, God must see me as better than that scum, right? The Truth is without Jesus, I’m in no better shape.
It’s like couterfeit money. If you take a really good counterfeit $100 bill into a shop and an ugly, cheap, counterfeit $100 bill made on a color copier, it will be clear that one bill looks better than the other. Both are worthless. Someone might even admire the better counterfeit. The value of each bill is the same. Zero. The value in currency is the treasury that backs it.
Placing our value in anything other than the unshakeable truth that we are loved by God, having been created in His image and then restored to relationship with Him through the price paid by Jesus, is a mistake. Pointing to all our doings is a mistake.
Does that mean we drop out of everything? Does it mean it is useless to do anything? Yes and no. Yes, if we are overloading ourselves and burning out because we believe that it somehow changes our value in God’s eyes. No, if you are operating out of a place of peace and rest where you serve from a place of relationship with your Father. If we are serving at the expense of relationships in our lives or are so busy doing “God things ” that we have no time left to love our neighbors, we are missing it. If we are too busy to sit by the lake and enjoy His creation, too busy to laugh with an old friend in an overpriced coffee shop and too busy to paint a sunset, our lives are filled with too much noise to hear His still small voice.
If our churches fill our schedules so much that we do not have time to coach a Little League team, serve on the school board or host a cookout for our neighbors, they cut us off from the very people with whom we should be building relationships. Since we have no time to love the people next door we expand the definition of loving our neighbors to all those who are in our church. Are are missing the point? I believe we are.
Our value is our in our being – created in God’s image with a desire that we be in relationship with Him. His desire is that we talk with Him, sit with Him and walk with Him and enjoy His company. When we begin here we become more like Him, our hearts and character reflect Him and then … we find ourselves doing.
We’ll discuss the doing in the next entry. I bet you can hardly wait, right?
“Humble yourself and cease to care what men think. A meek man is not a human mouse afflicted with a sense of his own inferiority. Rather,… he has stopped being fooled about himself. He knows well that the world will never see him as God sees him and he has stopped caring. He has obtained a place of soul rest. The old struggle to defend himself is over. – A. W. Tozer
I was just struck by how approachable and desirable Jesus is. When you mentioned the thief on the cross it made me think sure he stuck up for Jesus that’s great, but then he had the confidence and/or desire to ask Jesus to take him with him. Wow! Can you imagine asking that question while hanging on a cross being punished for your sins? You have to be thinking this is it I’m finally getting what I deserve, but this thief this sinner has the nerve to ask for clemency for a stay of execution from the only one who could give it to him. I don’t hear desperation in his voice, a last ditch effort to save himself. I hear confidence that his request will be answered by a loving God who looks past his actions into his very soul and loves him still. It’s such a picture of a loving, approachable God.