There are two kinds of approaches to life in this world.
The first amounts to a bookkeeping system. The bookkeepers unconsciously keep track of how others treat them and how much love or attention they receive. When they get a job, they think about how their income compares to other’s wages. They judge themselves better or worse by the color of their skin, their ethnicity, beauty, strength, ancestry, or religion. Some look to their possessions or wealth, prestige or power. Determining progress comes by comparing yourself to others on different scales of value.
You can practice this system regardless of your belief in God. The religious person can work at accruing God’s favor by following the rules and being a good person. Considering themselves nice people who deserve favors from God, they’re unhappy when things don’t turn out the way they want. As Jesus said, they will have their reward. The secular person, on the other hand, may leave God out of it, but they still work at keeping score.
The bookkeeping system has three problems. First, it’s a relative system. There’s no magic number where the bell rings and says, “You’re a winner!” Second, no matter how hard you try, you never can earn enough points, and you forever remain unsatisfied. No matter what you do, you always fall short. Third, bookkeeping has nothing to do with the God of Love.
The second approach is one of grace. These people recognize that they could never earn nor acquire what they really need in life; that it is God who supplies. They open themselves to grace through faith in Jesus Christ. They learn to resist the temptation to seek the favor and acceptance of others, for the only one they desire to please is God. This doesn’t mean they ignore other people. To the contrary, their love for God spurs them to a greater sacrifice and love for others. But they don’t do it to earn favor or avoid punishment, but because their love for God ignites a love for others within them.
In Philippians 3:2-11, the apostle Paul speaks of his former life as a Benjaminite and Pharisee. In that system, he accumulated points through his ancestry, circumcision, observance of the Law, and even his persecution of the Church. He was prestigious among Jews.
Whatever he had considered gain before coming to Christ, however, he now considered worthless. The three goals he espouses in this passage — to know Christ and the power of His resurrection, and to share in Jesus’ sufferings — come only through grace and not human quality or effort. It is the only approach that leads to peace and quiets the restless heart. Grace is our connection to peace.
Let me close with three suggestions:
#1 Review and reflect upon your life.
Are you living under the bookkeeping approach? Wherever you are, let it go!
#2 Live by grace.
Your Creator has already determined your value and worth. Live in His love!
Bask in it! If you don’t yet have a relationship with Jesus, now is the time!
#3 Beware of the dogs! (Phil. 3:2)
Others will expect you to live by the bookkeeping system. If you don’t,
someone eventually WILL put you down and persecute you. You see, it’s not
just that the secular world lives by this approach, but you’re also part of
everyone else’s bookkeeping system, too. Like dogs that display
viciousness toward those who don’t belong in their territory, others can
subject us to an equally hostile malevolence. Don’t give in or become discouraged.
Instead, be glad and rejoice that you could share in the suffering of Christ.