Yesterday was my birthday, so I've been appropriately self-reflective of late. And I've come to the same inevitable, logical conclusions that I pretty much have my entire life: I'm incredibly blessed in so many ways. My problems are largely first-world variety. I'm safe, relatively healthy, neither rich nor poor, with a lovely family, lots of friends, and a whole host of abilities. I haven't been perfect; far from it, but I haven't messed up too badly, either. I do good things for lots of people, and I recognize I owe everything to my Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier.
This morning I happened to see that a social media acquaintance had posted with justifiable pride about all the things this individual had managed to accomplish in a single day. Good for you! Only, this person took pride a step too far, and commented that people who claim to have "no time" aren't telling the truth, or aren't using their time efficiently, or both.
Oh dear. I'm reminded yet again that the root of all committed sin is the desire to equate ourselves with God. We want divine merit badges. We want others to see our accomplishments and think, wow, she did that all by herself. We want to look at our brothers and sisters and think, hmm, glad I'm not you, or, you could try harder. We want to judge. We want to justify. In short, we want to be God.
Regardless of whether you're a creationist or an evolutionist (truly, that old argument is pointless), we can see in the story of Adam and Eve what I'm trying to convey: human beings sin when they try to be like God.
It's not up to me to judge. Instead, I ought to respect my brother or sister's own judgement about his or her priorities, and move on with my own life.
Not everyone will accomplish as much as I have in my life. But that's okay. In the eyes of God, there's no distinction. We've all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. All. Of. Us. No exceptions. None. Never. Ever.
I explain original sin, the sin we're born into, as a bucket brimming full of black water. Each of us is born with a full bucket. Our committed sins, the things we do or say or fail to do or say, are like adding more to the bucket. It overflows. For some of us, it's a steady trickle down the side. For others, it's a torrent. But the volume of the bucket never changes. It always holds the same amount, and we can't empty it by doing good deeds, or living righteous lives. We're stuck with it. Self-righteousness doesn't work.
One perfect human life sacrificed is worth all the buckets that have ever been, or ever will be. That black water becomes pure and holy through the love of God in Jesus Christ. It's absurd, illogical, outrageously simple. It's infuriating to the sinful part of us all that wants to co-opt the power of the divine. But it's the truth, and the Truth has set us free.
How do I know that there's no distinction among us? Look at the parable of the talents. The servant who receives five talents (by the way, that was an insane amount of money in Jesus's time!) gets them "according to his ability," likewise with the fellows who received two and one. But the guy who got five and earned five with it received the exact same reward as the one who got two and earned two: the pleasure of his master. The message is clear: some of us have more and can do more. Some of us have less and can do less. But we're loved exactly the same.
What about the guy who hid his talent and did nothing out of fear? His sin was judging his master. There it is again, that desire to be like God. That impulse earns him a stint in the outer darkness. When we think we know best, when we set ourselves up like little gods and sit in judgement on others, we separate ourselves from God. We might be sitting in a pew, but we're alone in the darkness of sin.
Self-righteousness earned that servant nothing, just as it earns us nothing. It's perfectly fine to be proud of our own accomplishments, as long as we also humbly acknowledge that it was God who made everything that we are and do possible.
I'm looking down the calendar at Thanksgiving, and the upcoming release of Shadow King. I'm incredibly proud, and incredibly grateful. I want to remember that what I've done with the time I've been given only serves to help me understand my debt to One who is greater than I.