down to the bottom
Our human nature is to reduce principles of righteousness that we believe to be true, to equations that put us on the winning side of the arithmetic. For example, many of us would like to believe that we are healthy simply because we don’t inhale nicotine on a regular basis or live on a strictly McDonald’s diet. In other words, we think we are healthy because OUR positive nutritional habits outnumber what we consider to be poor ones. For many, the failings of others is at least a fallback argument for why our lack of exercise and nutritional discipline are not all that bad after all.
Or perhaps in regard to raising our children, we fall to the deception that our children are simply not catching on to our godly habits as quickly as we would like them to be. We think “doing the right things + discouraging bad behavior = happy, righteous kidlings.” The part we can’t figure out is why all our goodness isn’t being transferred to our children like copying a digital file to a hard drive. We plugged in the right numbers but didn’t get the results we wanted. We “know” that we are “doing all the right things” and “raising them right” but yet there they are, throwing themselves on the floor in a tantrum that leaves you embarrassed and your audience astounded (or so you assume).
The truth is that we fall prey to this subtle lie of slanted addition and subtraction because we prefer to save the shortcomings for others. Depending on how our mind works, we might make the equations more complex but somehow it ends up with someone else needing to step it up a little. Whether it’s those people we know “killing their bodies”, or our children who just need to hurry up and “listen to what I’ve been telling you all along” – we are pros at laying the blame at the feet of our neighbor.
I am proposing that we far too often tip the scales of righteousness in our favor, rather than acting upon the assumption that the heart of the matter is deeper than mathematics can discern. We somehow assume that because we have the answer on paper, we understand it down to the bottom. We cling to our paper and hope the we’ve absorbed the spirit of it. The arithmetic is simply an easy way for us to keep track of our standing before God. At the end of the day, it’s a lot easier to count tally marks than examine our heart motives.
We won’t solve this by simply trying to add more complex equations. The problem is that we think that we are understanding God’s law when really we are more like one of our children that can’t sit still and are just grasping at the first two words we hear. If we want to please our Father, we have to be committed to hearing him out and listening to the whole story. As Doug Wilson says, “It’s not enough to be right. We have to be right in the right way.”
So let’s start by assuming that we still have a long way to go. Let’s start by throwing our arithmetic out the door and getting down to the roots of the tree of righteousness. Let us live in a way that focuses less on what we like to call things and more on what God calls things. I think we will find that there is more joy and more peace down there where the love of Christ has supremacy over the letter of the law. So let’s get down to the bottom.