Where do you find value?
There are plenty of Christianese words out there, but one of the most used and potentially challenging words is “Justification”.
Not too long ago I heard Tim Keller talk about this term in a way I’d never heard before.
Everywhere we look people are on a journey of justifying themselves. We all do this. We have this indwelling desire to PROVE that our lives mean something. We all want to JUSTIFY OUR EXISTENCE.
This has certainly been true for me, but as I’ve begun to see more of the world, I’m starting to understand that in almost every worldview or religion, people are justified by following certain rules or laws.
Islam – “5 Pillars”
Judaism – “Mosaic Law”
Culture – Sex, Money and Power
Almost everything we see in this world trains us to find our self-esteem, worth, value, justification, or whatever you’d call it, in works.
Finding my value in what I do, has been extremely dominant in my life. It’s even driven me to doing plenty of good things, like donating money to charity, or packing down chairs after a church service. I often work much harder when I know someone I respect is going to see me. Far too often, my best works are driven by a need to prove myself to be important.
Justification by works kills every possibility of genuine love or joy
C.S Lewis calls this Pride. He also calls it “The chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began.“
“Pride is your greatest enemy, humility is your greatest friend” – John Stott
I love this quote, and it also makes plain the opposite of pride – humility. To quickly define humility, I would say it is almost synonymous with selflessness. For Lewis, the truly humble man “will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.” From my experience, it flows out of deep sense of contentment and security, that leaves one not needing to worry about themselves.
But here is Lewis’ challenge: “If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step is to realise that one is proud. And a biggish step, too. At least, nothing whatever can be done before it. If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed.”
Are you Proud?
For many years I’ve wanted to be humble, but only because I wanted people to be impressed by my humility. Unsurprisingly, I wasn’t very successful. I didn’t understand the nature of pride. My “pursuit of humility” was simply just another, sneaky, form of pride.
I was trying to use Pride to find contentment rather than allowing contentment to evaporate Pride.
Maybe I should have just called these blogs “C.S Lewis and the great sin”, but here is more of chapter 8 of Mere Christianity:
“Pride is the complete anti-God state of mind.
Does this seem to you exaggerated? If so, think it over. I pointed out a moment ago that the more pride one had, the more one disliked pride in others. In fact, if you want to find out how proud you are the easiest way is to ask yourself, ‘How much do I dislike it when other people snub me, or refuse to take any notice of me, or shove their oar in, or patronise me, or show off?’ The point is that each person’s pride is in competition with every one else’s pride. It is because I wanted to be the big noise at the party that I am so annoyed at someone else being the big noise. Pride is essentially competitive – is competitive by its very nature.
Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better-looking than others. If someone else became equally rich, or clever, or good-looking there would be nothing to be proud about. It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.”
Pride never satisfies
Here’s my practical experience with this:
While Pride is an extremely popular way to find our sense of importance, it is thoroughly and completely unsatisfying.
We measure our value in heaps of different ways, but as C.S Lewis is saying above, Pride drives us to compete with each other. We find worth in money, intelligence, physique, but it only satisfies momentarily when there isn’t someone else better around.
Due to Pride’s intrinsically competitive nature, it’s extremely unstable. You’re only worth anything if you can convince yourself, and others, that you’re somehow more important than they are. Even then, you’re not necessarily worth much, just more than that other person. While most of this probably goes on without much conscious thought, Pride is always super disappointing.
What’s Easter all about?
Amazingly, Easter doesn’t leave us having to compete with each other, searching for a sense of justification.
Maybe you’ve heard this 1000 times before, but Easter is a celebration of Jesus coming to earth and telling us what we’re worth to him.
Ephesians 2:4-9 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
We once were dead, following the course of this world, using pride to search for justification. BUT God shows us his love in Christ Jesus. Our worth is defined by the sacrifice God was willing to undergo in order to restore our relationship with him.
It’s all about Grace. Nothing that we have done, or can ever do, merited God’s richness towards us.
Maybe this gives new meaning to the idea of “Justification through faith alone.” It certainly has for me.
My hope this season
This Easter I pray that God’s great grace towards you will be revealed in new depth. That his crazy, unfathomable love will instill such a rock solid contentment in him that you will no longer find any need to compare yourself to anyone else.
I pray that you may find a radical freedom from poisonous self-focus and be totally free to love others genuinely with a full heart. I pray that God will be your firm foundation. Instead of rebuilding again and again on sand, might we realise God to be the only, all-satisfying, source of life.
I pray that we may have our eyes opened to the radical act of love that Easter remembers. That our search for worth would be utterly satisfied in Christ.
As always, I’m eager to chat about this! This is all very new to me, and while God has been teaching me much, I am much better at talking about it than living it out. I’d love to delve much deeper into personal challenges and experiences.