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The "Working for God" Myth


I was recently sharing with someone about interpersonal problems that he had had with a number of people in the past, and he freely admitted to having problems with bitterness against these people.

But when conversation moved to how he is going spiritually, the report was quite positive, i.e. that he was doing his best to "work for God".

This jump from a focus on core spiritual problems to a focus on outward activity is something that I have often observed in people who are almost frantic in their spiritual activity. They can be the hardest workers, and people will compliment them for all their acts of service. But in their past and in their hearts there may still be a host of unresolved spiritual problems.

Of course, if there is nothing that can be done about something, a diversion may be just what the doctor ordered. I'm not against someone getting busy in order to overcome depression or grief. But even then, in the midst of all our activity, we do need to occasionally take time to reflect on what life is all about, and how that activity fits into the bigger picture.

In the past, as a community, the Jesus Christians would encourage people to question whether life was all about how much money we can make. But the same can be said for how many pieces of religious literature we have distributed, or how many hours we have put in on various committees and charities.

Jesus taught that love was the ultimate requirement for his followers. But it is so easy to tell ourselves that extra hours at the office represent love for our families, attending church services represents love for God, or volunteering at the local op-shop (or political activism) represents love for the poor, when bitterness continues to fester against those who are closest to us. Can we really say that we love God (or the "lost", or the poor) if we cannot love our own families, and our own neighbours?

I'm not saying this to excuse us from outreach, worship, or charity, but I'm saying that all those other efforts may not even start counting until we have made things right with those whom we harbour grudges against.

Jesus said that if we come to offer a gift to God and remember that there is a problem between us and a brother or sister then we should leave our gift there at the altar and go fix things up with our brother or sister first, before proceeding in our relationship with God.

By all means, let us work for God, but let us not forget that reconciliation with those whom we have bitterness against is one of the first jobs on God's work list.


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