Sometimes the ‘rewards’ system in the bible makes me uncomfortable
Here’s the deal: over the past year, the Pharisee part of me has been thrust back into the dark hole from whence he came. Now, I can spot him coming a mile away and every time I affectionately take the Gospel and literally beat him over the head with it. I have no tolerance any more for the Pharisee in me and his desire to ‘work’ for God.
So, this morning I was reading in Philippians and I found something that sounded an AWFUL lot like God saying – hey! – you do this for me and I’ll do this for you! And that makes me REALLY uncomfortable.
Let me bring you in the loop here. In Philippians, Paul is writing to encourage unity in his peeps, and he explains to them that humility is the doorway to unity.
Before they have time to start whining about how hard it is to be humble when their coworkers are all such idiots, Paul reminds them of a guy who actually had a right to be indignant and self-righteous, but chose to wrap Himself in the humiliation of our flesh and willingly endure things He alone NEVER had to endure just to secure Heaven for us ‘idiots’ down here. (that’s Jesus btw)
Paul says be humble. His motivation for them is – Jesus was humble. I’d be happy if the passage ended there.
But that’s not where this passage ends. Paul explains how Jesus did all this crazy humiliating stuff and then says ‘therefore’. I’ve learned to seek that word like my boss seeks out new places to eat good meat. It’s a magical word to me that basically indicates God is about to explain what on earth Paul is talking about here.
Paul says be humble. Jesus was humble. And because He was humble HE got exalted. Is Paul trying to encourage them to pursue humility so that they get exalted? That seems AWFULLY self-centered and VERY pharisaical/older brotherish.
I had basically dismissed that possibility when I had a couple of sneaky verses try to sneak their way into my not so sneaky mind:
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4)
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you (1 Peter)
Wowzah. Well. Huh. That awkward ‘so that’ in the second example sure makes it hard to write exaltation off as a gracious byproduct rather than an incentive for humility.
So, Fabs and the HS did some good old school wrestling this morning. I explained to Him that He needed to work on His attitude. While someone as gracious as I might give Him the benefit of the doubt, an innocent observer might perceive Him as an older brother, and He really needed to adjust the way He was currently presenting Himself.
It occurred to me, as I was ‘correcting’ the Holy Spirit, that out of the two of us, I really wasn’t the one that could be counted on as a rock of truth. (True story: I spent some serious time this morning wondering why God didn’t create hamster size polar bears.) I’m probably not the best person to re-write the Bible.
So I’m stuck with this truth.
And here’s what I’ve been thinking:
God’s call to be humble so that we get exalted is not a call to work for a reward. It is a call to rest in faith that God is working out the reward.
God isn’t saying – do this humility thing and earn some exaltation. God is saying – stop trying to work to earn your exaltation. Stop trying to defend your name and earn your promotion. Stop trying to secure your earthly reputation and your heavenly glory. Stop being your own advocate.
God is saying – I will be your advocate. Give me room to display what a glorious advocate I am. Make room in your heart and in your mind to see how much I will fight for you. Let me defend your name. Spend yourself seeking the exaltation of those around you so that I can show you how delightful the exaltation that comes from God is.
Don’t receive the glory that comes from men. Seek the glory that comes from the only God. Seek it through laying down your striving and resting in me as your identity.
It sounds like freedom.
And I know that ultimately it sounds like glory. Because Paul ends his paragraph with a couple of well placed words. Jesus is given a name above every name. Why? –to ‘the glory of God the Father’.
Humble yourself. The reward is the glory of God.