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The Perils of Competence

Updated: Nov 6, 2021

Up Against the Wall of Pathological Self-Sufficiency

I'm quite competent. I can do a number of things relatively well and a bunch of stuff passably. I have a strong sense of initiative, perseverance, scary analytical skills, and an unnaturally high pain threshold. Armed with nothing more than a YouTube video and a screwdriver, I'll attempt daunting tasks that I have no business doing. I have been known to undertake giant life changes in a single bound, single-handedly. Ironically, despite being a person of great faith, I have done a lot of life tightly gripping the reins, claiming God's will on ill-advised decisions made all by my lonesome. Competence can be a quality or it can be a train wreck. Because apart from God, my very best thinking can and has gotten me into a mess of trouble. This principle applies to entire nations too.

Badly executed home improvement projects aside, I have made a mess of a few things, or at the very least contributed significantly: businesses, relationships, resources. This, notwithstanding a fine brain, a ton of energy, abundant good will, and all the virtues listed above. Sometimes, my lousy outcomes were the direct result of my sincere but misguided belief I was doing the "right" thing, vetted in a vacuum. All that has been muddied by my own brokenness, a desire to control, fear, and selfishness. Let's call it sin, to keep it simple.

Nonetheless, God has blessed me a lot because He loves me and is known to be gracious and merciful. Still, consequence-wise, I surely could have spared myself and others a whole lot of trouble by aligning my will with God's. Only He knows what I missed by settling for less than the best. Rather than live in regret, I can do the post-mortem to learn my lessons (Rick Warren offers this approach; 12 Step programs have the 4th step), confess to God and a trusted other, fix what I can, and move on, asking for God's help to do it differently next time. That's called repentance.

We mere mortals have made something of a mess of things here on earth with very little evidence of repentance. In America, originally founded on spiritual principles, our growing hubris has led us to a precipice, which is indeed a cliffhanger. We live in a land of competence and achievement. A mixed blessing.

Despite our many national challenges, the U.S. still stands in the top 10 of richest countries by per capita GDP. We are also among the most educated countries worldwide. We lead the world in most Fortune 500 companies. In spite of all this prosperity and attainment, we're also number one in income inequality among G7 nations. We rank 46th in life expectancy worldwide and 4th in substance abuse. In many parts of the country, top-heavy, bureaucrazy healthcare and public education are in a free-fall, with burnt-out nurses and teachers in exodus. The implications of all these realities are staggering.

Even as we seem to be emerging from the Covid plague, we are still reeling and dealing with the human plague. Climate change, growing political strife, division and disparity, increased crime, and general twistedness are obvious everywhere. We seem insistent on going and persisting on our own until there’s no place left to go.

And before some self-righteous Christians start fist-pumping, "Yeah! You tell 'em!" The church (people, not buildings) urgently needs to repent, too. Maybe even more than anyone else. Rampant greed, judgement, hypocrisy, and spiritual pride are an affront to both humanity and to God, and we need forgiveness just as much as the next guy. I'll be exploring this topic more in later blogs.

Like the Pharisees, many modern-day Christians have assigned point values to sin as a means of justifying their self-righteous finger-pointing, as though say, gluttony and gossip were less offensive to a perfect God than sexual sin or murder. God doesn't make that distinction. Not in the Ten Commandments, not anywhere. How very convenient for us to indulge the self-serving luxury of boastfully condemning the sin we don't happen to have, conveniently overlooking our own. Our blindness would be comical if it weren't so alarming and destructive. Recall, please, that legalism and hypocrisy really p&*^$d Jesus, off. (see Matthew, too) Moreover...

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Galatians 6:7-8

This reality offends people as much today as it did then.

Thank God, the solution remains simple: Jesus.

It's important that Christians stay in a posture of knowing how desperately we need Him and his completed work on the cross. In that Spirit, He will change us and produce the fruit and good works (2 Thessalonians 2:13, Philippians 1:6). Anything else is meaningless and invariably leads to pride. We may not go to hell, but God does discipline wayward kids. because He loves us.

On the other hand, the "everything goes" mentality that seems to be increasingly prevalent, has contributed to the sorry state of affairs. There's scant evidence we are competent at moral management. So much of the Bible speaks to our misguided morality and where it inevitably leads. My own "favorite" passage on the subject is Romans 1:18-32 NIV - God’s Wrath Against Sinful Humanity - Bible Gateway. Yikes! Uncomfortably familiar and more than a little rattling. I don't want to find out the hard way if it's true. Do you?

Whether we're talking about our own individual lives or God-sized national and global problem's well above our pay grade, The Creator assures us that He loves us and is willing to help us if we just turn to Him.

Let's humbly recognize our limitations, our inability to clean-up our individual or collective act or planet. Let's ask the God of the Universe for help and realign with His will before a bigger train wreck.

Regardless, remember: God loves you no matter what.

Grace & peace,

P.S. Are you ready to take The ultimate leap of faith? Pray along these lines:

Heavenly Father: I know I'm broken and I've made a mess of things. Please forgive me. Thank you for providing Jesus as the complete payment for my sins. I give my heart and life to you to do with what You will. I receive Your love and forgiveness in Christ's name. Amen.

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