Monday, November 12, 2012

Me-Less Theology

Have you ever heard the phrase "Don't thank me, thank God"? What does that phrase imply? Should we never accept thanks from others? How should we thank people in conjunction with directing our thanks to God? My husband told me a story of a fellow classmate whose mother made incredible spaghetti. This student would thank his mother for this delicious meal whenever she cooked it, and in response to her son's kind gesture she would retort, "Don't thank me, thank God!" How do you think this guy responded? Should his mother have accepted the thanks offered to her, or was she right in directing attention away from herself? If we pose this question another way, we might as well ask: Did God cook the spaghetti dinner? By now you probably get the point. No, God did not, obviously, cook this young man's spaghetti dinner. So what is the problem here?
I have been guilty of responding in the same way that the aforementioned spaghetti-cooking mother did. I think that oftentimes our desire to be humble and not draw attention to ourselves, is misguided when we do not take rightful credit for our human acts. If we cook a great meal, or do well on an exam, or perform outstandingly in a race or sports event, as Christians, should we take the credit? I think that this is a question of balance. It is obvious in the example above that the architect behind the meal was not, most basically, God. He did not boil the noodles, nor chop the tomatoes, nor brown the meat for sauce. The mother did. So whenever the son thanks his mother and she deflects his thanksgiving, is she really acting in accordance with reality? I think not. As Christians, we may have a hard time accepting praise or thanks for fear of being prideful or become too conceited. But we must remember that the Bible speaks very clearly of both the human and spiritual aspects of life. In theological terminology this is called compatabilism. For instance, when we pray we are beseeching God, the Creator of the universe, for our requests. God is not the one praying, we, humans, are. But God is ultimately the Sovereign King of the universe and has the right to decide whether or not he will grant our requests. So it is with our performance in the kitchen, in the classroom, and on the field. Humans cook meals. Humans take exams. Humans play sports. Yes, God enables us to do these things. God gifts us in specific ways so that we are able to perform. He strengthens our resolve to study for long hours, and ultimately to perform on tests. But when it comes down to it, it would be foolish to say, "God got that A+ for me." Right?
  • "Give thanks in all circumstances.." -1 Thes. 5:18
  • "Pray without ceasing." -1 Thes. 5:17
  • "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." -1 Cor. 10:31 
Scripture commands us to give thanks to God, and to do all things for his glory. But we must remember that we are not robots. We are human beings, created in the image of God, uniquely designed for the purpose of acting and living in this world in such a way that our lives praise him. This includes accepting praise, thanks, and honor when it is due. Of course we direct that praise back to God, whether verbally or in our hearts, but as Christians we would be mistaken to think that it is God who cooks our spaghetti. So the next time someone congratulates you or thanks you, do your humanly duty and respond appropriately. A simple, "You're welcome!" will do the trick.

1 comment:

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