In light of all of tonight’s zombie-trolling, cheerleaders-from-the-dead, and bloody celebrities, a short word on the nature of identity, and the only hope we’ve got. This Monday morning’s devotional comes from one of this weekend’s speakers, David Browder:
“So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labors under the sun, because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun? For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity.”
In a former life, I worked extensively in banking. Especially in the nonprofit sector where there are all sorts of worthy causes that do a great deal of good. In this one instance, I worked on a nonprofit entity that is well-known to a particular geography in the eastern United States. The entity was struggling financially and one of the executive managers of the bank was on its board of directors. This manager had a long record of service in the bank and was highly respected for his contributions and financial shrewdness.
The financial condition of the nonprofit began to deteriorate and the executive tried with all his might to help. He was personally tied to it and he genuinely wanted to see it succeed. Well, the financial deterioration increased in severity and, finally, action had to be taken to protect the bank’s interest. This was done, but there was an additional caveat. A head had to roll. It turned out that this executive manager who had given so many years of dedicated and competent service was fired. To add insult to injury, there were certain ambitious young managers who gleefully and smugly approved of this “justice”.
Perhaps you have seen this happen in whatever part of the world you live in. Maybe it was a coach who gave years of successful service, impacted many young lives, had a bad season and was fired immediately. Maybe it was a pastor who had a public moral failure and was subjected to a self-righteous feeding frenzy.
The givens of life very quickly destroy two naive notions: cause-and-effect and self-created identity. Cause-and-effect basically says that you will get out of a thing what you put into it. For instance, if you read your Bible, good things will happen (commonly called “magic”). If you succeed academically, you will be accepted into Stanford Law, work on Wall Street, marry the man of your dreams, and have a fulfilled life. This is a terrible myth, as the former bank executive will be quick to tell you. The empirical fact is that life will crush cause-and-effect thinking.
Another thing that dies is the idea of a self-created identity. This is baldly prevalent in the United States but it is the same in Africa or anywhere else. It is Aristotle’s idea that “you are the sum of your actions” but it is the idea of the natural man most profoundly. If this is true (and it is if there is no Christ) then life is “vexation” and “striving after wind” because you have to re-create your identity every day for your entire life. Even if you were to theoretically succeed, the end of your life comes and you are quickly forgotten. Your gains are distributed among others and the whole process begins anew.
In this short devotional, I invite you to despair of cause-and-effect thinking and self-creation. Receive, instead, the perfect and unconditional gift of eternal love through our Savior Jesus Christ.