O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways (Psalm 139:1-3).
One temptation common to sinful flesh is the desire to be great. You might wonder if that is really a temptation to sin. That only shows how much our world convinces you that the main goal in life is to be great or do something great.
It isn’t sinful, of course, if what you want to do is use your God-given abilities faithfully, to do your best with what He has given you for His glory. But it is easy for the devil to twist it so that you want to be noticed and praised for what you do, and if what you are doing is not seen as “great,” then you think what you are doing is not important.
On the other hand, you might shy away from attention and are uncomfortable with it (what is called being “introverted”), or you may think you have no great achievements. By comparing
yourself with others who seem to get more attention or have more friends, you can be tempted to feel jealous or resentful, or wish God had made you differently and given you different gifts and abilities. You might feel alone, ignored, or forgotten.
God’s goal is not for you to do things that are great by the world’s measurements. He does not think that the little or simple things are less important.
Instead, in the simplest activities that take place in the home (where nobody outside your family sees what you are doing), in your bedroom where you are alone with your thoughts, at your desk where you do your homework, or even having fun responsibly with your friends, everything is “sanctified” – made holy – “by the Word of God and prayer.”
The Bible and the Small Catechism direct us to the most ordinary callings – father, mother, brother, sister, employer, employee, citizen, even youth – for the most important activity in heaven and earth: confessing the sins you commit in these situations, believing that you are forgiven, and doing better with the help of God.
This is glorious and holy. A good way to think of this is to remember what happened in the Book of Joshua. The children of Israel were led into the Promised Land. Everywhere they stepped – although previously it had been defiled by the presence of idolatrous heathens — now was holy ground. It belonged to them. Why? God was with them.
Wherever you step is holy ground. You are baptized into God’s family. He is with you. You are not alone, forgotten, or ignored. And nothing you do is second-rate, for the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses everything you do.
So we Lutherans learn that when you rise in the morning or lie down at night (as we pray in Psalm 139), it is good to remind yourself that God is with you and talk to Him right away, to make the sign of the holy cross, the sign marked on you in your baptism, and pray:
“Into Your hands (Lord) I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things; let Your holy angel be with me, that the wicked foe may have no power over me. Amen.”
- Is it sinful to do great things? Explain.
- For the Christian, Who/What sets the standard for “doing great things?” What might some of these “great things” look like?
- How can the account of the Israelites stepping into the Promised Land help us understand the “greatness” of our own daily steps?
- Consider the familiar phrase from Luther’s Morning / Evening Prayers: “Into Your hands (Lord) I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things…” What does this routine and simple prayer phrase teach us about our ordinary things and the Lord to whom we belong?
Rev. Jerry Gernander
Bethany Lutheran Church