Tag Archives: self-righteousness

For Real People, Doing Everything Right Is Not a Real Option

A good many folks believe that, if you do everything right, you might live to be well over 100.

Two glaring presuppositions shine forth from this belief. One is that you actually might want to live to be “well over 100.” Not me, thanks.

The other most obvious problem is actually two falsehoods for the price of one—that it’s possible to “do everything right,” and that you will.

Under “doing everything right,” well, there’s a lot to check off. Most folks will tell you to spend a lot of time in physically demanding gerbil activity. (Careful, though, the sleep experts will tell you that if you short your sleep to make excellent time going nowhere on, say, a treadmill, you’re likely hurting yourself more than helping yourself.)

And you can probably forget about drinking any milk that a cow would actually recognize or claim. And definitely forget cheesecake or ribeyes.

Ironically, you may have to spend more time thinking about food—carefully cataloguing what you can’t eat—than the average glutton who just eats everything in sight. (I’m not arguing for either extreme.) Some folks will consider a particularly persnickety approach trendy or cool; probably more of your friends and family will just be driven crazy by it and find trying to eat with you more trouble than it’s worth.

And the lengthy “doing everything right” list goes on.

I readily admit that following a balanced approach to exercise and nutrition is a good thing. Do it, and you’ll likely live longer and better. Get crazy about it and you’ll drive yourself and everyone around you nuts (but this is sure: all concerned will live lives that certainly seem a lot longer, even if they’re not).

Here’s the problem, though. Even if it were possible to “do everything right,” one microbe that didn’t get the memo, one weak blood vessel, one errant gene first passed on by your great-great-grandfather, can quickly mess up your plan.

Ah, and what about folks who are sure that they can “do everything right” morally? I think I worry about them even more.

This example is extreme, but I laughed when I read this in Dave Shiflett’s Wall Street Journal review of Mark Stein’s book The Presidential Fringe: “Leonard Jones, standard-bearer for the High Moral Party from 1848 to 1868, promised voters that they would never die if they would live a faithful and fully moral life. He was apparently a good man, but when his time came he croaked like a toad.” That must have been embarrassing.

I vote for living a moral life. Defy any of the Ten Commandments often enough, and you’ll end up in pain with lots of bruises far more serious than even the ones people get by trying to defy the law of gravity. You’ll bless yourself and many others by heeding the words of our Creator. But if you think you follow them perfectly, you’ll bless the rest of us best by staying far away.

Some of the best wisdom God gave us came through the Apostle Paul in this straight truth about how crooked we all are: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3). And so, because we all need saving, and nobody gets life right, the apostle goes on to say, God sent his Son, our Savior.

Focusing on ourselves is a treadmill approach to life. (It’s actually idolatry.) Focusing on Him means finding genuine freedom and joy, finding our best selves by getting out of ourselves.

 

 

        You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com! 

 

 

Copyright 2020 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or profiteering is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 


“Just Try Harder!” Said the Ladybug to the Worm

“Just try harder!” urged the ladybug.

“I am trying,” protested the stressed-out caterpillar. “And I’ve been trying for hours! So far the only thing that’s happened is that I got so dizzy a few minutes ago I almost fell off my leaf.

“If I’d fallen, I’d surely agree that some wings would’ve come in handy. If wishes were horses, beggars would ride, and if caterpillars could sprout wings by holding their breath and pushing with all their might, I’d have wings that would make most eagles green with envy.

“But I’m still just a green caterpillar, Mrs. Ladybug, and trying harder is not working! So, if you please, madam, I’d be obliged if you would take your stories of caterpillars sprouting wings to some other tree where you may find a more gullible class of caterpillar.

“I’m sure you mean well, and I’ve no doubt that you honestly believe those stories of winged worms, but I am not too good to be a caterpillar. A caterpillar I was born, and a caterpillar I shall gladly remain.

“I may just be a glorified worm, but at least I am a worm with no airs and no need, by the way, to take to the air. Why, come to think of it, I saw a butterfly fly by just this morning. You’d never get me up in a thing like that! I have plenty of fine feet and feel no need at all for any wings, thank you very much. Good day!”

With that, the caterpillar turned on his many heels and wormed his way over to the next leaf. He felt oddly tired and soon found himself snuggling up to a nearby branch. Hmm, maybe he’d just wrap himself up for a while and settle in for a long nap. Caterpillars and wings! Of all the silly stories . . .

And of all the silly caterpillars, that one is in for a serious surprise and a world-class transformation. But trying harder won’t get it done. Only nature’s Creator will get it done, at just the right time and in just the right way.

Most of what passes for religion in this world is, when push comes to shove, all about humanity’s ability to do a better job pushing and shoving. It boils down to self-help horse hockey that puts far too much emphasis on our ability and almost completely disregards God’s power.

Christians, of all people, should know better, but we fall easy prey to “religion” that gives lip service to God but is really all about our trying harder to “be good,” which we could do just as well if the cross had never happened. Self-help religion requires no Savior, no cross.

God has something far different and far better in mind. It’s not about human power. It’s not about our ability to keep the rules. It’s about God’s Spirit transforming us from within: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation!” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18). And the apostle says specifically, “All this is from God” lest we think it comes from our own power to change ourselves and impress even God with how good we are.

If your faith is all about how really motivated worms can work harder and sprout wings, you need to find a different tree. One that’s shaped like a cross.

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2019 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


A Vice President-Elect, a Theater, and an Ambush

 

hamilton-boo

When Vice President-elect Mike Pence walked into the theater to watch the Broadway play Hamilton recently, he was not Abraham Lincoln and it was not Ford’s Theatre, but Mr. Pence walked into an ambush. He might have smelled trouble immediately upon entering. The air was thick with self-righteousness.

The actions of the booing and churlish crowd are utterly indefensible upon any grounds. If as a child I’d been caught in such behavior, my mother, unhampered by “progressive” ideas, would have delivered a speech and a liberally applied spanking to a son she refused to let grow up as a boor and a brat.

That the speech prepared beforehand by the cast to be delivered to Vice President-elect Pence was civilly presented means that the ambush was a tad less brutal than most. But it was still an ambush, premeditated and perpetrated by hosts upon a guest in their “home.”

The backdrop, of course, was the recent election. Columnist George Will well describes its outcome: “a loser who deserved to lose and a winner who did not deserve to win.”

But we did have an election. And we did have an outcome. And it is high time to behave.

I find myself wondering what it would have been like to be singing or preaching at a venue in which, some eight years ago, Vice President-elect Biden was in attendance. I’m not a fan. But I honestly cannot imagine ambushing the man in a theater or church where I had any control. If the crowd started booing him, I can easily imagine delivering a speech—but it would not be to him.

Self-righteousness short-circuits civility, and brutish arrogance is no more the temptation of the right than it is the left.

Whether we lean right or left, it’s no surprise when our most seriously held political opinions become so entwined with our moral convictions that it’s hard to separate them. At times, they can’t be separated and shouldn’t be. At other times, more often than we think, they can and should. At all times, demonizing those we disagree with is only effective if we wish to become demons.

I well remember listening to a sermon presented by a seriously left-leaning guest preacher at a church I was visiting. He prefaced his comments by expressing a desire for us to understand that he was not being political; he was just standing for God’s truth. I had no trouble imagining a right-leaning preacher at a church down the street stepping into a pulpit and giving exactly the same preface. Both would pass lie detector tests as both prepared to preach their politics.

I’m sure the audience members booing VP-elect Pence in that theater felt that the gravity of the moral injustice just perpetrated in the election, and the more serious evils they are sure will soon be unleashed, made their behavior justifiable, even necessary. In a different time and a different theater, perhaps their equally zealous counterparts on the opposite side might feel the same way. Both would be wrong.

And for Christians the question is as always: how would our Lord behave? What would he say?

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com

 

 

Copyright 2016 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


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