It is characteristic of American culture, and increasingly by extension American Christianity, to view life and temporal prosperity in it as accomplished through the successful execution of specific formulas. While there are certain areas of life where formulas produce success, for most people this is usually most readily seen in areas where we are dependent more on the immutable laws of nature.If you burn more calories than you eat for a long enough period of time, you lose weight. If you get enough sleep for enough nights you tend to be less fatigued. Some formulas work.
When human nature is added to the mix, however, the wheels can fall off no matter how well we execute the formulas we believe will produce a spiritually superior church, happy marriage, or well behaved children.
Most Christians have reduced the Bible to a formulaic rule book. If you’re not prosperous, you haven’t worked hard enough. If you don’t have a blissful marriage, you weren’t a submissive enough wife, or you didn’t lead well enough as a husband. If your children are not walking in truth (in ways that compel others to compliment you on the way they turned out), you didn’t “do” Proverbs 22:6. If you did, you didn’t do well enough or consistently enough to produce the right results.
There seems to be a total disconnect from the reality that God has given husbands, wives, and children all the same opportunity he gave each of us; the choice to choose the right way and walk in it or not. We thrive on the belief that when things turn out well, we can take some credit for it. We are very careful to give proper lip service to God for His word and its formula that we followed so well, but we cannot resist the urge to determine that what has gone well in our lives is because of our innate goodness or execution of the formulas. In other words, God couldn’t have done it without us.
Where parenthood is concerned, even as someone whose children are regularly commended, I have always felt sub-par. All of our children’s best character traits are easily recognizable as having come from their father, or as gifts from God that they seemed to have come with standard. All their worst traits? Those seem most easily recognized as having come from their mother.
As a wife, however, wallowing in haughtiness comes easy to me. I *get* how to be a good wife, or at least that’s how I used to view my wifely tenure; as perfect execution of the Biblical formula to be the perfect wife. See? I recognize the tendency. None of us is immune. The trick is being willing to recognize it and shut it down.
None of this is to say that what we do doesn’t matter, or that there aren’t directions on how to live given us in the Bible. Of course we are supposed to study and obey. This is to say however, that when we think that we have the power to direct how others act or turn out, we have gone far afield of the message of Scripture.
Enter this message from Voddie Baucham which I listened to over the weekend. Twice in fact, because it’s that good. Bro. Baucham reminds us that we are all just sinners in need of redemption and that whatever good we do, if it’s not done to the glory of God, or we are tempted to take any credit for it, we are back to square one. Square one is our need for redemption because the minute we say, “I did X and my children turned out God fearing, obedient people as a result” or “I did A, so my marriage is the best one I know of bar none” we are guilty of the sin of pride. Time to confess. Back to the cross we go.
One of the best parts of his talk is indicated by the title of this post. If there were anyone who was graced with perfect everything (parenting, surroundings, companionship of the Lord Himself), it was Adam and Eve.