Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Performance and Pride

“Does the LORD really want sacrifices and offerings? No! He doesn’t want your sacrifices. He wants you to obey him. Rebelling against God or disobeying him because you are proud is just as bad as worshiping idols or asking them for advice.”
1 Samuel 15:22b-23a

These words from Samuel convict Saul. Saul disobeyed, but he thought he was doing a good thing by reserving the best animals for God. When do we add to what God has directed, thinking that our addition is good? Such thinking is arrogant on our part, for we demonstrate that we believe we know better than God what is needed.

I wonder how much of our activity is done to make us feel better about who we are. When we act in a way that draws the approval of others, or do something because we think we are “supposed” to do it, are we risking rebellion against God? Are we being driven by pride? 

The Wesleyan Covenant Prayer has a line that challenges our notions that what God always wants is our activity: let me be employed by Thee or laid aside for Thee. We embrace being “useful” for God, but are we willing to be laid aside for God? To listen, rest, and wait? To be silent, to be voiceless in church affairs, to be on the sidelines when that is the obedient thing to do?

When we allow ourselves to be “laid aside” we confront just how much our self-worth is driven by our addiction to productivity. Without an activity to do, a contribution to make, a role to fulfill, we lose the attention and approval of others, and we may believe we are not worth much. But only when all that activity and productivity is stripped away can we even begin to discover who we really are in Christ. It is then that we learn that what is important is our attention to God, not our activity for God.

Sadly, many people never learn this lesson, or they only learn it when something catastrophic happens—job loss, major illness or debilitating injury, or a difficult change in relationship. When we either cannot be productive or when our productivity is no longer valued, we come face to face with our false notions of self-worth. It is in learning to love ourselves simply for who we are that we can learn to love others the way God loves us—unconditionally, not based on performance. And when we love ourselves and others that way, we are no longer driven by pride and performance but instead share and receive the grace of God.

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