Random Blog Clay Feet: September 13, 2008
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Saturday, September 13, 2008

What's Wrong with Self-sufficiency?

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3)

I have been enjoying a teen devotional each morning this year that sometimes elicits some very good insights for me. Today was one of those times. This verse was the one under consideration and the comments about it got me to thinking about this issue of being poor in spirit that has somewhat baffled me all of my life as it has the author.

He posed the question, What is wrong with self-sufficiency? I believe he hit the nail right on the head. After all, self-sufficiency is something that nearly every one of us in this culture have been trained to pursue all of our lives. We spend a great deal of time, training and energy on trying to cultivate independence from others, skills to market ourselves and years trying to get a better job in order to make more money in order to....

But then the author brought up another text that puts this issue into a different light, which is what usually happens whenever we are willing to look at life from heaven's viewpoint instead of our own assumptions and culture. What does God have to say about a group of people who have worked all their lives to become self-sufficient?

Because you say, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked... (Revelation 3:17)

Yes, I know that it is very easy to spiritualize away the meaning of both of these verses. That kind of reasoning is often used whenever we are still caught in the trap of compartmentalizing our lives into different sectors and carefully keeping them separated from each other. We work hard at religion when we go to church or other religious functions but feel free to be a different person to a great extent when we are out in the “real world” as we call it. Oh, we may feel come compulsions to restrict how far we go in our “secular” life so as not to damage our religious reputation, but we find no problem with living a double life. After all, isn't there even a text in the Bible that warns us against becoming over-religious?

So what is the problem with being self-sufficient in our secular life as long as we don't feel too self-sufficient in our religious life? Isn't that how we are supposed to interpret these verses? After all, the only thing we can imagine a person being who is not self-sufficient is somebody who lives as a free-loader mooching off the charity of others and we certainly would never want to stoop to that level.

But one thing came to my attention this morning while I was reading this. It is the issue of complete honesty with one's self which is possibly the most difficult thing for many of us to ever accomplish. Deception is one of the most important elements of Satan's kingdom and has been his main mode of operation since the very beginning of his rebellion in heaven at the throne of God. And self-deception is a given for anyone born into this world as a sinner which all of us are today.

The fact of the matter is that every one of us are really poor in our spirit. It is in our spirit where the real problem of sin affects our lives the most and sin has impoverished our spirit more than anything else. But self-deception that has been strongly reinforced by the deceptions pushed on us by the world around us keep us from understanding or believing the real truth about our own condition. Religion as we have almost always known it plays right along with this notion of the importance of self-sufficiency though it has a different spin on it at times. But if we really want to know our true condition as heaven sees it we must be willing to open our minds and hearts to the possibility that reality is radically different that what we have been led to believe all of our lives.

This is often a very frightening and intimidating proposal whenever it is encountered, especially for people who are confident in their religious life. Some people are forced to face the truth about themselves through tragedies or traumatic events in their lives and later come to deeply appreciate what at first they strongly resented. They realize that through intense trials they were actually given the opportunity to get in touch with reality and the true poverty of their own spirit and resources, and as a result they chose to turn to the only real Source of spiritual wealth and cast their souls completely on His mercy.

However, trauma and trials are not guaranteed to bring this wonderful result about in every situation. The choices each one of us makes are dependent on our own willingness to acknowledge the truth about ourselves whenever we are exposed to it. We can either embrace the truth of what we could not see before and humble ourselves to accept it from heaven's perspective or we can choose to go into even deeper denial in our effort to cling to the self-deceptions or religious scaffolding we have depended on for most of our lives.

I have been learning that this is not just a one or two time event but is something that occurs on a regular basis. I am daily faced with choices and opportunities to receive convictions from the Spirit about the real truth about myself that I have to decide what to do with. In fact, I have come to sense that if I am not under conviction about something for a long period of time that there is something likely amiss in my own relationship with heaven.

The most effective way that God uses to expose the poverty of my spirit is to allow me to see it in contrast to the beauty and attractiveness of His perfect Spirit and goodness and kindness. I am finding that the more real truth I discover about what God is like as opposed to what religion has often taught me, the easier it is to see my own inadequacies by contrast. For it is a fundamental truth that it is the kindness of God more than anything else that leads me to repentance. (Romans 2:4)

So I see that self-sufficiency is not all that it is cracked up to be. In fact, it is something to become legitimately alarmed about and a cause for concern and investigation. For to enter the kingdom of heaven requires nearly the very opposite of all the things we assume are true from our life in the kingdom of darkness. And just because we are very religious does not exempt us from still discovering that much of our life is still operating under false assumptions. After all, those described in Revelation 3:14-22 fully believed they were religiously correct and had nothing to worry about.

Father, thank-you for Your mercy in revealing to me my true condition. And thank-you for doing it in increments and not all at once most of the time. Your are so kind and gracious and merciful to me, but I need to perceive that so much more clearly. Continue to increase Your light in my heart and mind and mold me into the prince that You created in Your image. Dwell in me with Your Spirit today and cause me to reflect Your gentleness, kindness and goodness to everyone that my life may touch today – for Your name's sake.