“You’re asking the wrong question.”
It just popped into my head the other morning. No particular context that I remember. Just one of those random thoughts. But for days it just wouldn’t go away.
It sounded like an important insight, but only if it had a context. Asking who the wrong question? Wrong question about what?
Was this a prompt from God, or just something some brain cell picked up from the radio? Either way, it stuck in my head worse than Disney’s “It’s a Small World”. (Sorry if bringing that to mind ruins your day.)
Finally, this morning, it connected. I was sitting at a breakfast meeting listening to Skye Jethani talk about “The Idol of Effectiveness”.
His premise was that we’ve wrongly applied an American cultural metric to our spiritual life: Viewing the effectiveness of what we do for God as an indicator of a healthy relationship with God. It stems from the pagan belief that we are created to serve the gods (or God) and meet their needs. But our God does not need us at all.
Jesus says in Matthew 7:21-23 that some who call Him, “Lord, Lord” (the repetition expressing deep acknowledgement of His Lordship) are not part of His Kingdom. In fact, it says many who do “mighty works”, even miracles, in His name will be told, “depart from me, I never knew you.” How God chooses to use us (or donkeys, or even rocks) is not evidence of our relationship with Him.
Although I still need to ponder this further, it shed light on some things perplexing me about my own spiritual condition lately. I’ve been asking the wrong question, trying to assess my relationship with God by the works I perform.
Like the culture around us, we get caught up focusing on trying to prove our own worth. But thinking our worth comes from anything we do for God elevates and distorts our own importance. God created us to love us, not to use us. Likewise, God wants us to love Him, not just to use Him to meet our needs. Every time God works it’s in spite of us, not because of us. He doesn’t need us, He wants us — our presence, not our efforts.
In no way does this suggest we should be couch potatoes doing nothing for God. The point is that our activities for God are nothing more than our proper response to His love for us. They are not — as we tend to make them — the source of our identity in Christ. They do not increase our value to Him. Bigger is only better if God calls you to bigger.
God did not call us to change the world — that’s His job. We are called to love Him and love others — both of which do require action, by the way. But if God calls me to a little task, success is doing that little task faithfully, not turning it into something bigger so I feel important.