I sometimes think that Cracked has a few ‘spy’ authors in the mix. (For anyone not an online denizen, Cracked is a comedy website that is usually crass, and frequently hilarious.) The whole concept of a spy author (I think it is from C. S. Lewis… I may be wrong) is to be read and accepted by people who are usually antithetical to the Christian worldview and influence them. Depending on how deep the cover is, sometimes no one can tell. (Some Graham Green stories are in this category.) Anyway, if Cracked does not have actual intentional ‘spy’ comedy writers, they sometimes sure hit the common sense, conservative worldview (Albeit they usually are lightly explicitly liberals, but implicitly not… odd but true.) And sometimes this or that writer will excoriate some part of the modern worldview, while championing what you imagine old strict Christian Grandmas would say. The article that brings this up today was 6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person. The article makes a compelling, and occasionally crass, case against the culture of self-esteem. For instance, truth no. 2 is: What You Are Inside Only Matters Because of What It Makes You Do.
Another great section riffs on relationships:
Does that break your heart? OK, so now what? Are you going to mope about it, or are you going to learn how to do surgery? It’s up to you, but don’t complain about how girls fall for jerks; they fall for those jerks because those jerks have other things they can offer. “But I’m a great listener!” Are you? Because you’re willing to sit quietly in exchange for the chance to be in the proximity of a pretty girl (and spend every second imagining how soft her skin must be)? Well guess what, there’s another guy in her life who also knows how to do that, and he can play the guitar. Saying that you’re a nice guy is like a restaurant whose only selling point is that the food doesn’t make you sick. You’re like a new movie whose title is This Movie Is in English, and its tagline is “The actors are clearly visible.”
The whole article is, of course, written from a worldly point of view, but it seems to be, in fact, about vocation and the parable of the talents. God gives us talents (and makes us learn them usually) in order to help people. God does not need our writing, our music playing, our architecture, nothing. But people do need them. So, in our vocations, having skills that help people in some way, God uses us to do good things for people. The author give the example of all the people who ‘keep this or that in their thoughts’, and the Christian version of ‘praying for you’. As Christians, we believe prayer is efficacious, but that does not mean that we should not also try to do things for people. Frequently, the people we pray for are people we cannot do much for. They are across the country, or across the world. But, by working and doing things, God can use us to answer other peoples prayers, and we will (and should) never know.
This brings me around to to a thought that goes through my head every time I judge the novel contest. (my blog posts always do seem to be long digressions around a point… 🙂 ) There are many people who write a story (or sing a song, or paint) and the story (or the song or the painting) is crappy. (Don’ take this the wrong way anyone, we have numerous good and excellent entries… but there is always one or two that fall into this category.) Because Christians are taught that ‘God knows what is in your heart’ or ‘God doesn’t judge a thing by human standards’ Christians half-ass things. While those statements are on their face true, what is always implied and the real message of the people teaching it, is the same self-esteem garbage that the world talks about. ‘Your intentions are what matter’ and such forth. It is true that God doesn’t judge you by the quality of your singing, but everyone on earth does. You should strive to write the best novel, sing the best song, paint the best painting, (do the best chemistry… ahem…) not because the better quality is demanded by God, but because it is the work that God has given you to do, so you should do it to the utmost of your ability. And the utmost of your ability is very hard work indeed. And shall we pretend, although it matters not a jot to our salvation, that God is not pleased by effort and by His people working their talents a hard as possible? (The working of talents was the clue to where I am going with this…) Obviously not! Remember the ten talents given and the ten talents more… people who never bother to do what they do as well as they can are approaching remarkable similarity to the man who had one talent and hid it, and gave it back as it was before.
So, to try to return to the beginning, we are not saved by our usefulness to other people, to say that would be heresy. However, God does put us here to serve one another, and to work hard. We are in a garden or a field, though it is not Eden, and we have to fight extremely hard against the weeds. For anyone who has not gardened and is missing the point, gardening is very difficult, and requires skill and knowledge and ceaseless effort…