The following essay appears as the Commentary to the April 5th entry in Consuming Fire, the daily devotional version of George MacDonald's Unspoken Sermons.
Give me the spirituality of a homeless heroin addict who refuses the life of God and mourns over that loss rather than a Christian who says he will follow and does not any day. I struggle with the inside of a church. Haven’t been in years, to be honest. One of the reasons for this is the affectation of obedience I rightly or wrongly perceive among many leaders and attendees.
When my husband lost his job for refusing to do something that was unethical, I had a chance to observe firsthand how a surprisingly large population within the church seems to truly feel about money, position, and success. The attitude had nothing to do with following after the life of Jesus, and everything to do with self-promotion and deception. I clearly recall one leader of a church in a large Southern city castigating my husband for his lack of “success”. The man was exorbitantly wealthy, and could do nothing but judge those down below. Worse yet, the money he made came from teaching others about the teachings of Jesus.
I think I could handle better attending a church led by the rich young ruler. He honestly answers that he cannot do what Jesus requires, and his heart is sad that he cannot. But he does not try to say he is doing God’s will, does not pretend to be something he is not. The man who admits to his corruption is less corrupt than the man who pretends he is clean when he is not.
I know there is a verse in the Bible that says that the love of money is the root of all evil. In a way, I can see the truth of it, but I think it is not always money that is at the root of deception in terms of our own spirituality. Perhaps the most compelling reason for convincing ourselves we believe something we actually do not is to improve one’s sense of self worth, a personal currency if you will.
A house built on sand is a house that will collapse under pressure. A true sense of self-worth must begin with a radical honesty about who we are and what it is we really desire. It is better to walk away from following Jesus than to believe we follow him when we truly only seek to present ourselves to ourselves as successful spiritually. It’s easier to turn around a flat-out no than it is to untangle lies built on unacknowledged desires and motives we refuse to acknowledge.
I don’t know if I am right or wrong here, in terms of the root of all evil, but I do know I would rather pray with an open rebel than a false disciple. Perhaps the only truly fatal sin there is the sin of self-deception.