In this age of protecting self-esteem, it can be the case we avoid thinking bad things about ourselves spiritually. While it is true that there were days when we could think of nothing else perhaps, my experience both in myself and in my work with others is that maybe the concept of self needs a little “correction”. Perhaps the current state of affairs is the result of a correction when the emphasis on certain devotionals or sins might have been out of proportion, it seems to me today that it is now the case that too often we are more concerned with not bruising fragile egos. At least I think that is the case with me sometimes.
When I think of my own spiritual life, I do not always like to think that if God were simply a God of justice, then I would be condemned for all eternity. But God is not simply a God of justice, since his justice is tempered by his mercy. Hear these comforting words again from the first reading.
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ (by grace you have been saved), raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
Perhaps a correction became necessary from previous ages because the mercy of God was not considered forcefully enough. Perhaps it was because we underestimated the power of the love of God, that love for each one of us that was so powerfully expressed when we were created. At the same time, too often, we do not embrace those elements of our own selves that show forth the best of humanness, in the image of God.
Perhaps this over indulgence in self esteem is because we have become fascinated by the works of our hands. I must admit I share a particular fascination with technology. I remember vividly the first time, in the early 1990s that I downloaded a radar and satellite weather picture on my computer with its 40Mb hard drive. It is very hard for me to grasp that the smart phone in my pocket is so much more powerful than the first desktop computer I had.
Perhaps it is because with this technology has come the ability to be bombarded more and more with advertisements suited just to me. Also, I can track shipments, read news stories before they are published in the morning paper, get directions, and so much more on something small enough to fit in my hand. But all of this has come at a price. I am less patient. I want things now. I am more active, and not always about the things that really matter. I do not always take the time to appreciate all that God has done for me, and I spend too much time admiring what I have done.
Salvation is not the work of our hands. It is something we did not do, do not deserve, and at least in my case, do not always appreciate. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast. It is free, undeserved and is the result of God’s unimaginable love for us. This is not the work of our hands. Salvation is not within our grasp, as if our being saved is the result of our hard work.
The gospel presents in very understandable ways what happens when we view life as only what results from our own hands. Now as for you,
you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry! There is no consideration in these words of others. There is no recognition the success the farmer enjoyed was not simply the result of his own hard work. There is no doubt in the story he worked hard. But he also had a foundation of things that were done and learned before him.
And so it is in our spiritual life. We rely completely upon the will and grace of God, who loves us beyond measure. Loves us so much God extends undeserved mercy when we sin. Loves us so much, God bombards us with grace upon grace. For the focus is not our works, but God’s work. For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.