I remember hiking to the top of the Clingmans Dome observation tower in North Carolina a few years ago. It was foggy as far as the eye could see, so…not far. Then what was the point of the tower? Sure, I could look at the magnificent spiral ramp atop the misty mountains, but then, one might say I was more enthralled with man’s handiwork than with God’s. So what is the point? What good is a tower on a foggy day? When the sun shines again, the view will be glorious. So is faith when we cannot see. Keep building what God would have for you to build.
Building a tower in the fog may seem a fool’s errand, and it might be, for any number of reasons. It might be in a terrible location for its intended purpose. You may not have the tools, supplies, or time to build it. It might be built for the wrong reason, in the wrong season, by the wrong builder, or on the wrong foundation.
The point is: only God is the Source and Sustainer of that which is good. To turn from that is, by definition, not good. Why then, with all our good intentions and knowledge of God, do we fail when building?
The error lies in our assumptions, namely, “I know good; therefore, I cannot do wrong.” Does not Satan seek to deceive, even if it were possible, the very elect? How does this happen? Notice the assumption again: “I know good; therefore, I cannot do wrong.” It is focused on the wrong person, on myself, instead of on God. When our focus is off, our righteousness, gifted to us through Christ, becomes distorted and corrupted into self-righteousness. If we tell God, ‘I got this all figured out,’ when there is a touch of tension, an inkling of error, or clear anticipation of a disagreement with the Almighty, we are quenching the Spirit.
My knowledge of God gives me a choice; it does not guarantee success. If I rely on my own understanding of God’s Word and do not allow Him to correct and direct, I am worse off than before because I believe I have God on my side. The deception is: I believe in my subjectively good intentions more than God’s objective truth.
So, in the building of our towers, what are some deceptions that have crept in, masquerading as good? Remember this: Deception doesn’t work because it is easy to identify or resist; it works because it is easy to identify with and accept. Our own understanding, our own error in judgment, and especially our own sin can blind us to truth and error.
What are some common deceptions?
“Well, it’s just not practical.”
Fair enough. A reality check is warranted. Sometimes, there are more important things. Let’s just make sure we’re not saying this about the most important things. Amen? It is good not to waste effort, to spend it on the wrong thing. But sometimes, we dismiss something as ‘impractical’ only because it is inconvenient, not because it is impossible. Ease masquerades as practicality. Discomfort is seen as impractical. But consider love. Is love, for someone other than myself, enough to convince me to try, and to keep trying, to do God’s will? Remember: God loved us first, and we should follow in His steps.
“We’re doing this because it’s good stewardship.”
Jesus has strong words for bad stewards and some rather memorable parables to remember them by. For example, Luke 19-20. So what’s wrong with good stewardship? Remember the saying, “I know good; therefore, I cannot do wrong”? Leaning on our own understanding can corrupt this area as well. Do you remember what Judas said about Mary’s gift of spikenard poured on Jesus’ feet? To paraphrase, “Lord, that is terrible stewardship!” Is love ever wasted? Yes, on things of the earth. Judas had his hand in the bag. Charity, the poor, was just a front for his self-love and the love of money. Greed masqueraded as good stewardship.
Also, beware of promoting pet projects instead of seeking God’s direction. In such a case, power may well be the element masquerading as good stewardship.
“Well, it’s just common sense.”
What about the uncommon? What about the Divine? What does God have to say? Let’s back up.
If you and I agree on something, is that common sense? Yes, it is something we both sensed, a common intuition. But does that make it true? If ten or twenty Christians think something is good, does that make it good? No. For example, there are more than 20 -ist’s (pick a false doctrine) in the world. Faith in numbers does not make fact. Or is ‘common sense’ more of a truth that everyone knows? How do we know it is true? Does the Bible promote it, directly or in principle? Or are we so busy searching the Scripture for permission that we miss the clear warnings? Just about anything can masquerade as common sense. Is your ‘common sense’ grounded in agreement with man, or with God?
James 4:13-17 (KJV) addresses the building of towers, the doing of things, quite well.
“Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil. Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”
Are we doing what we know to be good? Are we investing how much God wants us to invest? Let us pray, and live, as unto God in Matthew 6:10, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”
Like that tower, we can point men to God to show His glory when the clouds are lifted. But beware worship of the tower itself. The purpose, after all, is to show men who God is.