Is the focus of the Christian life really supposed to be personal morality? Will God be pleased with our lives here on earth if we can just somehow manage to obey the Ten Commandments most of the time? Do we really think that Jesus died to buy us a “clean slate” and it is simply our duty to keep it clean? Is the Christian experience supposed to be all about self maintenance?
Imagine this, your favorite rich uncle buys you a brand new car. Maybe a Lincoln if your uncle happens to be Matthew McConaughey, or maybe a Buick if your uncle is Tiger Woods. You are totally blown away. You don’t deserve this. You have a hard time accepting it, but because you are so desperate for transportation you accept the gift.
Though you are grateful, you really feel like you owe your Uncle something in return. There has got to be a way to pay him back. But he’s so well off, you know it’s foolish to even ask. But you do anyway.
What he tells you next is almost completely unbelievable. He says the way you can “repay” his gift is by taking immaculate care of the car. In fact, he says he added you to his will and as long as the car remains in perfect condition, when he dies, you will receive more money than you can possibly know what to do with. You will live happily thereafter. The End.
You are, once again, floored by his generosity. You can’t believe it! “All I have to do is take care of this brand new Lincoln SUV and I’ll be set for the rest of my life!”
Cut to you in the driver’s seat of your Lincoln. You are cruising down a long stretch of two lane highway. Road as far as your eye can see. A pensive look on your face as you slowly rub your thumb and forefinger together lost in deep thought and the natural hypnotism of the road behind and ahead.
You begin thinking about the challenge and potential reward of your uncle’s charge to maintain your new car.
First thought: I shouldn’t take any chances. I should just park this car in the garage and never drive it again.
Counter thought: I don’t have a choice. I have to drive it. I can’t afford another car. Plus my uncle will notice if I’m not driving it. He may be offended and take me out of his will.
Conclusion to First Thought: I must drive the car, there’s no way around it.
Second Thought: I have no idea how long my uncle will live. He’s only about 10 years past his prime, is super healthy and maintains a low stress lifestyle.
Third Thought: If I must use the car, I’ll just be super careful and only drive it when I absolutely have too. I may have to alter my lifestyle a little bit, but it will be completely worth it because I’ll get my reward when my uncle dies.
So after the encounter with the bull in the middle of the road, you turn around and head home. You drive past a guy hitch hiking with a gas can. You feel bad for not giving him a ride, but you can’t risk him soiling the upholstery in your new car.
Fast forward 10 years:
Good news is the car is in great shape. There was that one fender bender but it wasn’t your fault and the insurance company paid to fix it.
Bad news is your life and relationships are in horrible shape. Not only do you feel completely justified not picking up dirty hitch hikers, you don’t want to risk giving your friends rides either. You say no to road trips. You say no to hanging out with friends you haven’t seen in years. You say no to picking up family members from the airport.
You even had to miss your cousin’s wedding because it interfered with the car’s maintenance schedule. You have other cousins, but there is only one Golden Calf in your life.
But worse than your adopted anti-social behavior is your lack of drive and ambition to do any thing with your life. “Why should I take risks and bust my butt when I know I’ve got my uncle’s money to look forward to?” You say no to the better job across town because it’ll just put more miles on your prized cash cow of a car.
Am I trying to revive the Twilight Zone here, or is there a deeper meaning?
The deeper meaning is that I think I just wrote the perfect metaphor for my life. Maybe it resonates with you too.
Why are Christians more interested in maintaining their personal morality than they are in helping others?
Ken Wytsma, pastor and author of The Grand Paradox, points out that the word “righteousness” in the New Testament can just as easily be translated as “justice.”
The verse we all latch onto so strongly, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you,” takes a different meaning if we switch “righteousness” with “justice.”
“Seek first the Kingdom of God and his justice, and all these thing will be added to you.”
All of a sudden the admonition stops being about me, me, me, and becomes about others, others, others.
All of a sudden The Lord’s Prayer, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” demonstrates God’s will for our lives.
Jesus’ parable of “The Good Samaritan” becomes a cautionary tale of what happens when we are too “righteous” to be of any practical use to others.
And all of a sudden we realize the emphasis Jesus placed on advocating for the poor and needy. Feeding the hungry. Caring for the sick. Taking care of the widows and orphans. Clothing the naked.
Could it be that True Christianity is really more about social justice and equality than personal morality?
If right standing was awarded us by virtue of Christ’s sacrifice, why do we insist on living in fear of losing it instead of using it as a platform to advocate for others?
When we factor Love into the equation I think we all agree we need to be the Samaritan and not the Self-Righteous egotist.
If the objective is just to keep myself “unstained by the world” I can park myself in a garage somewhere, like a celibate monk in a Tibetan monastery. But that sounds too much like burying my “talents” in the dirt. That would be playing it too safe. The Master would call me a wicked servant for living in fear and not out of love and faith.
Do you believe that Christ’s righteousness was applied to you?
Then prove it by getting over yourself and advocating for God’s Kingdom of Love, Justice, and Equality for all.
Again, could it be that True Christianity is really more about social justice and equality than personal morality?
Maybe the Christian voice in American Politics should be more about “Liberty and Justice for all” and less about Abortion and Gay bashing.
When Jesus was here doing God’s will on earth as it is in heaven, what is it that he was doing?
Raising up the Poor in Spirt and bringing low the Proud.
The reason Christianity really started to spread like wild fire in the first couple centuries A.D. is because it resonated with slaves and with women. The people that governments and other religions didn’t regard as equal.
The Apostle Paul lit a fire when we penned these words: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, Slave or free, male or female. We are all one in Christ.”
Christianity at it’s foundation is about Equality. We are all equal to each other, because we are all equal with God.
The World’s System is all about raising up some at the expense of others. We are all taught our place and dare not act or speak above our station.
Again, why are Christians more interested in maintaining their personal morality than they are in helping others?
The metaphor explains it all.