Brother Lawrence’s book ‘The Practice Of The Presence Of God’ hasn’t arrived in the mail yet, so I’ll continue with some thoughts that came to me since my last posting.
One of the biggest problems we all have to deal with is a little appendage lurking in our dark corners called ‘the ego‘.
In some people, the action of the ego is very clear to see: self-importance, megalomania, ‘me, me, me’, hunger for acquisitions, fame, power, influence, and more. People laced with a heavy dose of this curse may be easy to identify, because they usually make a big showing on the world stage.
What about the rest of us? “I’m not like that,” we may think. But whoa! Make no mistake, deep in the salt mines of our souls this worm is at work continually, coloring and shaping our thoughts and attitudes on anything and everything.
Jesus said , “Take up your cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23)
I don’t believe He was referring to the stresses and strains of worldly life in work and relationships – that is all periphery. The issue goes deeper than that.
Paul gives us a clue in 1 Corinthians 51:33 when he says, “I die daily.” Clearly, he doesn’t mean physical death. What does he mean then?
In 2 Corinthians 10:5 we get another clue : “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” What has to die is the ego.
Now this is deep stuff. It’s all very well to have a head knowledge of these scriptures, but it’s something else to take them on board in your life and your heart. Paul is NOT talking about demolishing other people’s false beliefs (I’ve seen that argument put forward by clerics), He is talking about our own ‘pretensions’, in other words, the thoughts and attitudes sown into our souls by the action of the enemy, through our egos.
In my last post I confessed about being dissatisfied with my effectiveness as a Christian. In truth, the dissatisfaction arose from comparing myself to others, to those who have done and are doing great things for the Lord: a comparison brought about by my ego. There’s no good in denying it. Deep down we all want to be something special, to have satisfaction and recognition for what we’ve done, not only on earth but in heaven also.
Jesus warned against seeking the approval of other men at Matthew 6:1-6. Put bluntly, if you act with the intention of gaining men’s approval here on earth, that’s it – no approval will be forthcoming from God. You got what you wanted.
But what about comparing the Father’s rewards and the extent of His approval as between ourselves and others?
Jesus tackled this issue head on in His parable of the workers in Matthew 20:1-16. He describes a vineyard owner hiring workers throughout the day to complete work in his vineyard. At the end of the day, the workers who had worked all day were incensed when they saw those hired later getting the same pay as they got, even though they themselves were getting their agreed wage.
In the parable the land owner answers one of them, “I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous? So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Matt 30:13-16)
Here we have it – the Father does not look at man’s criteria when deciding who and how to reward. He doesn’t have to! Those who kick up a fuss and claim their entitlement is greater than others’ will find themselves at the end of the queue.
PS: A denarius was a good wage – it was the normal daily wage of a Roman soldier on active service.
Denarius coin of Augustus Caesar, emperor of Rome at the time of Jesus’ birth. Note the word “Divus” (god) on the reverse side: the introduction of emperor worship was facilitated by the gratitude most colonies felt for Pax Romana, the ‘Roman Peace’, brought about by Augustus after centuries of warring in the Mediterranean countries. For most colonies, this was nothing more than the addition of a further god to the array of gods they already had. For the Jews, of course, it was anathema. Rome was wise enough not to press the issue at this stage, but no doubt the coinage was a constant irritant to the Jews.