I have observed an interesting and sad result when offering people in our church cash gifts in their difficult times. We have a team that quietly distributes funds to various ministries and individuals as they feel led. The individuals are told that there are no strings attached, it’s just a gift to help in a particular time of need. The gift of course is almost always received with gratefulness. Often with humility and brokenness. But then over time I have seen a number of people become uncomfortable, feeling that somehow they should pay it back. We stress it isn’t necessary, but you can see the struggle they’re going through. And in most cases, they couldn’t pay it back anyways. But they wrestle with accepting what they feel is “charity” and what we feel is an expression of love. Sadly many over the years end up leaving the church shortly after the gift because they feel shame in having this obligation. They find it easier to not be reminded each time they come to church.
I think this plays into exactly what author and pastor, Matt Chandler, brings out when he asks the question, “What moves you towards Christ?”
That’s the question posed his new book, To Live Is Christ (chapter 5), regarding the passion that Paul expresses in Philippians and David shows throughout the Psalms. The hunger, deep groanings, to consider all things rubbish in comparison. He wonders why more of us don’t find ourselves in that place and then offers this as a possible reason…
“What often happens for us when we come to know the Lord—and usually it comes from a very sincere place—is that our love of God’s grace is replaced with a sense of obligation to please Him. It starts with gratitude but easily and naturally turns into trying to pay back a debt—to earn His grace, in other words. We move on to the self-salvation project so rapidly.
“Instead we need to ask a question complementary to good works. We need to ask ourselves: What moves me toward Jesus? What stirs my affections for Jesus Christ?” Matt Chandler & Jared C. Wilson. To Live Is Christ to Die Is Gain.
There is something inside of us (pride) that wrestles with grace. We feel an obligation to try to pay back, to be on the same footing as the giver. And yet in the case of the cross, that just will never be the case. We will never be on the same footing with Christ. The pot will never be equal with the potter.
I think this is perhaps an aspect of “working out our salvation with fear and trembling”. The struggle to not let pride strip away the necessary complete abandonment to grace is part of our journey.
So what moves us towards Christ? What motivates us to settle for just being good or better instead of being intimate with Him? I can’t answer that for anyone else as I struggle enough for myself.
What I do know is that I want to have words like yearn, passion, burn, groan, hunger and thirst to be part of what describes my desire to know God deeply and intimately.
Prayer: God, thank you so much for your free and immense gift of grace to me. May I receive it continually and not move towards trying to earn it in any way. Help me to see my place of desperation at all times instead of attempting to convince myself of my own worth. Instead may my life, by the power and leading of your Holy Spirit, be marked with a devotion and passion to bring you glory! “As the deer pants for water” may my soul long for you. I want to press in to more of you.
Great insight Len. Pride undermines our ability to embrace grace.