If you’re like me, you are constantly desiring to do more than you’re currently doing. This desire envelops every facet of my life: my hobbies, interests, relationships, art, and ministry. Especially the last one. That one is a bugger. See, I do stuff for God on a daily basis. Not big stuff, sure, but still things are done that reflect him and (hopefully) point to my love for him. But recently I’ve been convicted about this desire to do more and more for him. Convicted you ask? What’s wrong with desiring to do Godly works and ministry? Nothing, inherently. Doing good works should be a huge part of a Christian’s healthy walk with our heavenly Father. But nothing, save our relationship with him, continues to be healthy when it borders obsession.
That’s kind of a strong word. But that’s just what I was doing. I was obsessing over doing things for him, things that pleased him, that made him think of me perhaps in a little better light. Then God spoke to me, and asked me a important question.
Do you want to do things for me or so that you can feel good?
In other words, do I want to do good things for him and to bring him glory, or because I want to feel more worthy of his love, and make myself feel good?
See, even ministry can be selfish. That sounds weird, for certainly someone who’s sacrificing their time and money for others can’t be doing out of selfish motives, can they? Unfortunately, they can. See, God created us to enjoy giving, to enjoy doing good for others. It feels good to do things that help others. There’s nothing wrong with feeling good after doing ministry, but there is something wrong with chasing that ministry high, that feeling of worth, of pleasing God. Because when you’re concentrated on feeling worthy, feeling good, and pleasing him who crafted the universe, you are not doing it for God, you’re doing it for you.
In C.S Lewis’s The Four Loves, he describes two main loves: gift-love and need-love. Gift-love is is a love concentrated on giving of yourself to the other person, out of your love for them. Parents have a gift-love for their children. Need-love is concentrated on needing what the other person can give. It’s not inherently selfish, it’s just how this love works. Babies have a need-love only for their parents. They can’t have a gift-love yet because they depend totally and utterly on what their parents provide for them. C.S Lewis compares this relationship between a child and their parent to us and in our relationship with God. It is impossible for God to ever have a need-love for us. He doesn’t need us. That’s what makes his gift-love for us so beautiful. And just like small children, we have mostly a need-love for God. We need his grace, his mercy, his justice, his love, his joy, peace, hope, and his wisdom to not just survive but thrive in this life. God loves this. He loves being needed by his children just like a mother loves being needed by her children.
But something has creeped into mainstream Christianity that is dangerous. It’s the idea that we need to have more gift-love than need-love for God. No one will word it like that, but that’s the basic premise. You’ll hear things like “God’s not Santa Claus,” and “Try praying about something other than yourself,” etc etc. Now, don’t get me wrong, we often DO ask too much for material things, as if God were Santa, and we DO need to pray more for other people as well as ourself. But you can never pray about your problems too much or petition God on your own behalf too much. He loves it when we cry out to him and declare our need for him. How would a mother feel if her child never wanted to be held, fed, or cared for? Instead he went around and did stuff for his mother all the time, cleaning the house, washing the dishes, and telling his mother to care for the other children in their neighborhood instead of him? At first, it might be cute and touch the mother’s heart; but eventually she would tire of him doing everything for her; she would get tired of him not needing her.
She wouldn’t feel loved if she didn’t feel needed.
God wants us to need him.
Don’t be ashamed of need-loving God more than gift-loving him. Gift-love is only worth something from us when it is accompanied by need-love. It’s like a child trying to make his mother pancakes for breakfast. Does the mother need her child to make pancakes for her? No, of course not. The mother could make the pancakes ten times better than the child. The thing that touches the mother is the fact that the child did it purely out of love, when it is obvious he needs to mother actually make breakfast. Do the pancakes make the child any more worthy of is mother’s love? No, but they exemplify the love the child has for the mother, because, despite the fact that the child is fully dependent on his mother to provide for him, he went and gave his best attempt to his mother because he wanted to show her how much he loves her.
God doesn’t need my good works. It won’t make him love me more, and it certainly won’t make me more worthy of his love or grace. But I still think that somehow I’m doing it for him, when I obviously am doing it for myself. I’m concentrating on gift-loving the Father of Lights instead of accepting his love (his full and unequaled gift-love) and need-loving him back.
I’m like a frustrated child, making a giant mess in the kitchen, trying to cook the best breakfast I can imagine for my mother. I start with pancakes, then go and try and scramble eggs, and cook bacon and sausages and bake biscuits and chop fruit up, and blend smoothies and anythign else I can imagine is a breakfast food. My mother stumbles into the smoky kitchen, coughing and waving at the smoke. I hold up a plate of soggy pancakes, burnt bacon and eggs, and say “Look how much I love you.” But when she tries to cook breakfast for me I refuse. In fact, I don’t go on the walk with her to the park, I don’t go get ice cream or go to the movies with her, because I have to concentrate on making the next day’s breakfast for her.
Is that love?
Or is that obsession?
God doesn’t want my pancakes.
He just wants me.
“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”