My Greatest Idol

Jul 05, 2015 -- in: thoughts

Our worth does not come from what we do, nor should our primary joy.

I recently had a pretty bad day. I had slept poorly, woken by a headache multiple times, and the headache persisted. I was really tired, and the addition of the headache meant that I couldn’t do a whole lot. The ridiculous heat on top of that didn’t help, either.

In his grace, God used that day to remind me of just how much I hate being weakened physically. A strong cold or pronounced fatigue are enough to destabilize me emotionally and often spiritually; An illness or physical accident have a very strong impact on my mood.

In fact, yesterday was a strong example of exactly that: I spent most of the day without any motivation to do anything, what I did, I did more slowly than would be justifiable by the exhaustion alone. I was annoyed at myself for not doing anything, which was effective only at preventing me further from doing stuff. I also had a hard time summoning the faith, strength and discipline required to guard my thoughts and eyes from the sexual temptations around me.

My Greatest Idol

The fact that I am so deeply angered by situations that prevent me from doing stuff points to my greatest idol: I really, really want to be productive, efficient, spend my time on lasting things, and achieve.

Superficially, it seems like I’ve got it together: When I play games, which is not often anymore, I mostly play RTS that make me think a lot. When I watch videos, I hardly ever watch mere entertainment, preferring instead to watch - again - content that provokes thought or increases my knowledge in a meaningful way. I don’t listen to music, only to sermons or deep, Christian podcasts. I rarely read books for entertainment, - and even those are from literary beasts like Tolkien, Tom Clancy or Jules Verne - preferring instead to read theological disputations, Bible commentaries, or other works of theological value. And a great deal of the time I spend on the computer is invested in programming or learning Linux-related things.

However, this facade of disciplined productivity hides the ugly truth that my heart seeks it’s worth and joy in what I do. The reason why my mood drops down a cliff because of a simple headache is that I simply can’t stand not doing anything (at least seemingly) productive for even five minutes.

Our Evil Heart

This sin clearly shows one of the few things from which our sin flows. We either pride ourselves of knowing more than God about what is good for us, which causes a lot of very visible sins such as sexual sin, or we pride ourselves of being righteous before God because of what we do – the problem of the pharisees and the cause of my idolatry.

The truth is, we cannot save ourselves because nothing in us is righteous in any way. Romans 3 teaches us that we are sinners through and through, and that all the thoughts of our heart are evil all day long (Psalm 56:5). The situation is not that we don’t do enough good works to outweigh our bad ones, but that we do not do one single good work or even thought in our entire lives (Psalm 14:3) apart from the work of God’s saving work and Spirit in us.

Redemption and Relief

That is why we must rely on the grace of God. He alone is our righteousness, our strength and our shield. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:33) It is God who saves us: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. (Romans 3:23-25)

With that knowledge, we are free to rest from time to time. We were not created for permanent activity, or God would not given us such a strong need for sleep. And when we do things, we may do so knowing that the Spirit works in and through us for our good and that of others.

We should live in disciplined use of our time, it is important not to waste it (the Bible treats this topic quite a bit as well). But under no circumstances do our deeds earn our salvation. We rely fully on the saving grace of God! Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. (Romans 3:27-28)

Finally, consider the words of Paul below and remember that all our worth comes from, the only thing of worth is the knowledge and Love of our savior Jesus Christ! Not how productive we are or how well we spend our time.

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith -- [...] (Philippians 3:8-10)