Have you ever noticed that sometimes we race past the familiar?
For me, this especially happens with Bible stories. I was zipping through John 11 this morning, skimming the story of Lazarus—“Oh, quit blubbering Mary and Martha, he’s going to be alive again in about three paragraphs”—when I was stopped by something surprising: a new observation.
Here are the verses I read, part of the wrap-up of the story where the Sadducees and Pharisees get really angry and start planning to kill Jesus: “Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, ‘You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.’” (John 11:49-50)
I’ve read these verses before. I’ve even thought about how ironic it was for Caiaphas to say this, since Jesus really did die to save the whole nation from perishing—just in a different way than Caiaphas was thinking. It’s not a very original thought, since John goes on to explain that little plot twist in the next two verses.
But what I never thought about was this: God doesn’t need Christians to say really profound things about Him.Translation: God does not need me to say really profound things about Him. I tend to think that there are deep and meaningful truths out there that will never find voice unless I explore and articulate them in quotable statements and insightful expositions. I am a Christian writer. If I don’t write these things, and write them well, no one will.
But in these verses, God used a legalistic, power-hungry, hypocritical religious leader who was plotting His Son’s murder to make a very profound statement about salvation through Christ.
Now, I’m not saying that God can’t give some Christians the gift of teaching through the written word. I believe He does, and I believe those words can be powerful. But a lot of times, I think Christian writers think that God needs us, or at least that the world needs us, to defend the truth. We tend to believe that our craft is a higher calling, that our particular way of putting something is a critical contribution to the faith, that we as writers need to go out there and change the world.
There’s a little bit of truth in all of that, but our attitude is often wrong (or, at least, mine often is). It’s just another way of saying, “Look at what I can do for God.” Part pride, part insecurity, part genuine desire to serve that keeps getting hijacked by less noble motives.
God can use Caiaphas. God can use Amy. Those two statements are equally true. Now, God can probably do more through me because I’m seeking to speak the truth about God, but, honestly, God could have the rocks yelling what people needed to hear if He ran out of people willing to give Him glory.
And when I make my writing all about me, even in subtle ways, I’m not giving God glory anymore. I’m giving it to myself.
God does not need me. He wants to use me, and that can’t happen until I stop taking charge on my own.