Scripture Reading: Nehemiah 5:1-19, Exodus 22:25, 2 Corinthians 8:9
I’m no bargain hunter when it comes to shopping and did not inherit whatever gene it is my grandmother and mother and at least three of my brothers seem to have. I want and weigh and debate and discuss until finally I buy at full price. There is one place, though, where I have no problem hunting for bargains: my standing before God.
It seems I’m always being measured and measuring myself up against the standards of others, and therefore, against the standard of God. Unconsciously, I list my good deeds against my less than good deeds and, finding myself short, try to make it up to God.
I’ll be more faithful here.
I’ll give more of myself there.
I’ll be a better friend here.
A better wife there.
I’ll be quick to say I’m sorry here.
And I’ll be slow to take offense there.
Surely the scales will be weighed and I’ll not be found wanting?
Surely my generosity must count for something?
What I love about Nehemiah chapter 5 is that while Nehemiah is a man who is known and loved by God and loves Him in return, somehow he still feels the need to present his list of good deeds before God. It’s as if he is a small child who’s come in from a long day of playing outside to then dump out the contents of his pockets and present them as treasures before his father.
I found this rock and this stick.
Look at this leaf and this frog.
I played with this boy and then we built this fort.
Come see it…
And instead of ignoring or rebuking the child for distracting him, the father delights in the boy’s account. This child is not earning the love of his father; he is simply overflowing with the gift of who and what he is—a child, about the work of being a child, doing the things a child does, and certain in the love of his father.
It is not a bargain Nehemiah is on the hunt for here. He’s not listing his deeds to God in order to gain His approval. He knows who he is and what he is called to do: rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and call the people to repentance. It is not scales on which Nehemiah lays the goodness of his deeds—it is for the delight of his Father.
We know that as children of God, our “good deeds” are like filthy rags before the goodness of Christ (Isaiah 64:6). We are fully covered in the sacrifice of Christ’s death; therefore, we can no more justify our good deeds or count our bad ones against us. Jesus’ work on the cross is complete, as is our justification through Him (Galatians 2:16).
So since we are children of God, as we go about our lives today, let’s not tally mark our good deeds or our bad ones, but instead be about our Father’s business, being faithful with what He has called us to today. And at the end of the day, whether we’re tempted to feel self-sufficient and justified or ashamed and unworthy, based on what we did or did not accomplish—let us instead empty our hearts before the Father and show Him the treasures of a life lived in faithfulness for our joy and His glory.
Lore Ferguson Wilbert is a writer, thinker, and learner. She blogs at Sayable, and tweets and instagrams at @lorewilbert. She has a husband named Nate, a puppy named Harper Nelle, and too many books to read in one lifetime.