Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Performance Trap

     During my college days, I had a wonderful professor who taught communication.  Not only was she an excellent instructor, but she pushed me to reach for the next level as I entered competitions in oral interpretation of literature.  At one point, I was discouraged because I had not placed in the top three even though I had done well in other events.  I had my heart set on a trophy.  She wisely counseled me and her words still echo in my memory.  She said, "Don't be concerned with winning trophies because some day they will only gather dust.  Instead, give your best effort and be content with that."  At the time,  I could not accept her advice, but as years passed, I have often reflected on this as most of my awards, trophies and certificates are all packed away gathering dust.  It is a wonderful feeling, though, to win an award after serious, hard work.  Yet, with time, people forget and move on because life never stands still.  What we really need to concentrate on in this life is seeking to lay up treasures that will not gather any dust.
     Jesus taught us that we should "....not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:19-21).  Jesus gave this as part of His address to believers.  It is a warning not to be taken lightly. This world has many temptations, and it is easy to be dissatisfied with your life or possessions by simply watching television or your neighbors.  In fact, the message the world offers us is best exemplified by an advertisement produced for Korean Airlines.  The ad starts with a song "It's all about you".  To put it another way, they want us to believe that they are only focused on our comfort and care.  That well may be, but the message zeros in on a key problem we face in this culture.  The natural man is all wrapped up in himself.  He is self-centered, and desires only things that will help him advance.  This is our inheritance by birth as descendants of Adam.
     When God regenerates us and opens our eyes to the Gospel and we repent, we become new creations no longer bound by sin.  However, this does not mean that we are instantly transformed so we never fall into sin again.  Instead, our spiritual growth is a process.  Therefore, we can fall back into sin by making our lives all about us once again.  We are not immune to the lure of the wealth and fame.  We still have that old flesh living in us that wants nothing better than to pull us into worldliness.  Having so many voices in the social media telling us that performance is what matters can be confusing to our minds.  After all, Satan is a flatterer and the Father of lies.  This is how Eve fell in the Garden along with Adam.  He appealed to their desire to be wise like God.  Rather than glorify God by obeying Him, they sought to glorify themselves.
     Unfortunately, in Christian circles today, we have those who want to build a kingdom of their own because they have been caught up once again in the performance trap.  Mega church growth at the expense of sound teaching, promotion of books to gain fame, and feel good activities such as mission trips without the right motive are all a part of the performance mentality.  Do not misunderstand what I am saying.  Church growth is good and so is writing a book.  Going on a mission trip to help others is also admirable.  However, whom are we doing it for? Are we doing it for self or for God is the question we have to ask.  Who will get the glory, the attention?
     We must return to the instruction Jesus gave in the verses above.  Laying up treasure here is just another dust catcher like my trophies.  We cannot take it with us when we die.  However, when we live to glorify God and enjoy Him forever as the Westminster Catechism teaches us, we are laying up for ourselves treasure in heaven that no one can ever take from us.  This life is so short in comparison to eternity that we need to think hard about our motives for being involved in certain activities.  Jesus calls us to be a servant even as He was; for this life is not about "US".  It is all about God and our relationship to Him as our Creator and Redeemer.  This is what will count for all eternity.  Today, whom will you live to glorify?  Selah!

Photo used by permission is the work of Cathy Hardest.  Her photography is beautiful.  Thank you Cathy!

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