A while back, I drove past my neighbor's house and right there in the street with the rest of the garbage were several golden trophies nearly half my height and still looking quite shiny and new. For curiosity’s sake, I wish had taken the time to see how old they were. It didn’t take long before my thoughts drifted to Matthew 6:19-20:
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal."
I know traditionally we think of treasures on earth as money, fame, a collection of assorted items. I suppose these trophies are a fine visual of what happens to all of those things in the end. They get tossed in the back of a sanitation truck, the compactor comes down, crushing them to pieces and the whole mess gets shoved quickly into the heart of the truck to make room for more. We know all these things will pass away. It will all burn up. But there are other things we can hold onto as Christians and I imagine these things will be included in that which burns up in the end or at least how we perceive these things. I wonder because we often tout these things as measurements for success in our relationship with God. To be honest, these are good and worthy things to grasp for, just not to rely on. Two specific things stick out to me because depending on the church or a person's focus, they can sometimes be looked at as completely opposed to each other.
Good Christian Living
How many Christian books out there lay out a plan for a successful Christian walk or life? I'm not just talking about Joel Osteen's, "Best life now" or Rick Warren's "Purpose-driven" philosophy. There are a number of books that simply try to tell us how to be a Christian in a way that is pleasing to God. We are told to be moral people and stand up against sin. Take those commandments to heart and follow them and you'll begin to see change and success and freedom and any other lovely Christian word for success you can think of. Success is translated into good works, either personally or towards others. This kind of success has become a big part of the Christian life and in some circles it has become the litmus test for God calling us His. When we have success, we are holding that trophy up high and waving it for all to see. Sure, we may give Jesus some credit, but we are not giving it to him the way it is deserved. We are saying, "I must be following Jesus the right way!"
We do need good works or rather our neighbors do and frankly, we are someone's neighbor as well. It's also true that we should strive to live lives that honor God. Lives that are as honest with our failures as much as our successes so that we might keep coming back to the one who we hope in. The one who covers a multitude of sins. Jesus, the fulfillment of the Gospel. He is our sin-bearer and our righteousness. When we hold our good lives up to God, we are forgetting this part. We are forgetting that any good is of God and not of us. Part of that good Christian living is to keep our eyes on the cross as well as the empty grave. To remember that it is grace that saves and it is grace that keeps us and no works that we do can ever be a better guarantee of our salvation then Christ's finished work.
Good Christian Theology
Being of a mostly Lutheran mindset, I feel at times like a theological misfit and I suppose I wear this distinction as a crown. It serves to remind me, that whatever denomination that holds to the truth that Christ is Lord and Savior, at some point, we'll probably bump heads on some secondary theological issues. Because of this, sometimes theology is a trophy to hold up in someone's face. How does that happen? When scholarly men make a point to apply their knowledge in a completely dispassionate fashion to boast (whether on purpose or not) in their understanding of all things theological for the purpose of shutting down someone of lesser knowledge, you can probably bet that person has stored up a trophy right there. With many having an educational level of no more than an 8th grader, we don’t necessarily need someone to explain the things of God from the perspective of a master's degree. We need someone bold and compassionate enough to take that knowledge, that truth and feed to us so that we can truly digest it. Francis Schaeffer said, "Biblical orthodoxy without compassion is surely the ugliest thing in the world." We've all seen it. To be honest, I've seen from the scholarly and from those who say their "higher education" comes from the Spirit of God. That trophy is held by anyone who makes it a point to make an example of you or more specifically your lesser knowledge.
With apologies to the those attending HSU (Holy Spirit University), We do need good theology and right understanding. We do need to grasp the truths of God. But we need compassion and love to drive it as well. We need you to come into our tax collector homes and open our blind eyes and heal our diseased bodies with the Gospel. As much as we need to know all the truths, if we don't know Christ is for us, It won't matter. Most people will never hear the word, "theonomy," or the phrase, "simul justus et peccator," but they will listen when you pray God's will be done for them and encourage them to trust in Christ's promises for you, even as you struggle with sin.
I would guess that every one of us is guilty of holding onto things as treasures that we either thought was good or didn't realize we were doing it until it was revealed to us. It is part of that battle within us. The battle of flawed individuals trying to love God and others through our faults as best we can.
I know I have a few more trophies in my basement that need to go out to the curb.
How about you?