A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
“There is a paradox. As long as Dick does not turn to God, he thinks his niceness is his own, and just as long as he thinks that, it is not his own. It is when Dick realizes that his niceness is not his own but a gift from God, and when he offers it back to God – it is just then that it begins to be really his own… The only things we can keep are the things we freely give to God. What we try to keep for ourselves is just what we are sure to lose (p. 213).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
Pick your greatest strength or personal asset: being nice (as Lewis refers to), intelligence, work ethic, organization, charisma, music ability, athleticism, etc… Place that thing in Lewis’ quote above in order to feel the appropriate sense of discomfort.
Chances are your response is like mine – that is mine (possession) or that is who I am (identity). Lewis says as soon as I think that way I’m wrong – I’ve lost what was given to me by God. How does that work?
What it can’t mean is that the attribute evaporates as soon as I take credit for it. Hard working people don’t cease to be hard working people because they take pride in being better than people who don’t work as hard. If anything, their pride leads them to work harder to maintain their identity.
Two things happen which make their strength “less their own.”
First, they lose the “credit” for their strength before God. When a personal characteristic becomes corrupted by pride no longer does God look upon that “strength” with favor. God does not love us like an employer loves an employee, but like a father loves a son.
An employer looks at the productivity to determine his/her opinion of an employee. The more an employee advances that company or increases the profit margin the more pleased the employer is. It doesn’t matter to an employer if the employee is motivated by fear, pride, greed, or benevolence.
A good father looks at what is best for the son/daughter and determines whether something is good on the basis of their overall well-being. A child can be excelling in a way that is exhausting or compromising his/her character and “winning” will not be seen as good.
That is why when we fail to offer our strengths (and for that matter our weaknesses) to God, He does not count that strengths as “credits” to our account. God sees the pride or false identity in our life and is right to warn of impending danger. That leads to the second thing that happens.
Second, their strength mutates from a blessing to a master – they belong to their strength instead of their strength belonging to them. When we fail to recognize our strength as coming from God, we begin to rely upon our strength for more than it can give.
Either we pridefully believe our strength is what makes us “good” and we judge those who are not good (by the standard of our strength), or we fearfully live with thoughts that we will not be able to continually live up to previous levels of “good.” Either way, we begin to belong to our strength instead of our strength belonging to us.
What is the alternative? It is giving our strength to God in recognition that it came from Him and receiving Christ’s righteousness through the forgiveness of our sins as what makes us “good enough.” When this happens our natural strengths can be restored and used for the purpose God originally gave them to us. They are ours because we are His.
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