Today’s Gospel reading is Matthew 7: 21-29. I am contemplating the first verses.
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’
will enter the Kingdom of heaven,
but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.
Many will say to me on that day,
‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name?
Did we not drive out demons in your name?
Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’
Then I will declare to them solemnly,
‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’
Well, that’s a kick in the pants, right? I wonder at Jesus’ words here. These “evildoers” performed “mighty deeds” in His name. What was the problem?
I have a couple of ideas on ‘the why’ for these scenarios Jesus describes. The first reason might be the motivation of the people doing these deeds. Was it to glorify God or themselves? Was it because they liked the attention and being lauded as VIP’s in the Kingdom? Not a good answer.
Another reason may have to do with the love with which these things were done. Did they share the Good News or assist others out of love for their fellow human beings? Did they just want to be seen as doing good/being good? Once again, not the best of motives. And connected again with the first. Bishop Robert Barron often talks about the four great temptations that so often lead people astray from the Way of Jesus. They are pleasure, money, power, and fame.
If you are known as the ‘guy/gal who does mighty deeds in God’s name,’ that will certainly get you a degree of fame and power. And maybe even a little pleasure and money, thrown in. You may only be famous in certain circles, but if it feeds your ego and ends up being all about you, that is never a good thing.
It is crucial and necessary to give all honor and glory to God from whom all good things are bestowed upon us. ALL good things! Sometimes it’s a struggle to not want some credit for things we’ve accomplished. But our talents are not our own, our efforts are not our own. We are undeniably dependent on the God who made us! We get our cleverness, our physical well-being, our ability to motivate others, even our ability to truly love, and whatever other gifts we might have, from our Almighty God.
So if we begin each day grateful that we are drawing breath and rising on our own and heading out to do productive things for the Kingdom, we just have to thank God for the many blessings. And then ask Him to keep blessing us. And not forget where our very existence comes from. I am part of a faith that believes God loved us into being. We are not our own; we are His. We are made for communion with Him, and through Him we are then in communion with our brothers and sisters, and then in Him we are able to be that blessing to the world. Maybe it’s only our small corner of the big, wide world, but that’s not our concern.
I am reminded of another Scripture quote which is one of my favorites. God wants from us 3 things: “To act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.” (Micah 6:8) In all humility, that is not thinking less of ourselves, but in appreciation and gratitude for the gifts we’ve been freely given, realizing that we are who we are because of our Creator. And, yes, with His grace we can do greater and better things. Those abilities are from God. It is all God within us, working through us as we surrender our will to Him. Thank You for that grace, dear God.
And we must remember that we can do lesser and baser things without Him. I believe the Scripture from Matthew above has to do with humility and gratitude. We must never take our gifts for granted and we must never succumb to the opinion that we don’t need God’s help to do the wondrous things we do. Jesus’ words also have to do with the love with which we do anything. The question from someone who Jesus is sending away is not, “Why was Your love not enough?” And that will never be the question. For if we love God and allow His love for us and everyone to flow out of us, we will not brag about the things ‘we did,’ but exude nothing but gratitude, joy, and thanksgiving for what God has done!
Dear Lord, we thank You and praise You. We glorify You and bless You for creating us and for loving us, more than we can imagine, for all time. Help us to always know You are the reason we can truly love, and Your love within us is the reason we can do anything – “mighty deeds” or tiny acts of kindness – only through, with, and in You. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.