The peculiar gift of $500 has provoked many of us to add some of our own money and to continue giving more than we were accustomed to giving. In the same way, the decision process has provoked thought and meditation that go beyond the narrow question of what is to be done with LSC’s financial windfall. An example follows.
Why are we compared to sheep throughout the Scriptures? Perhaps because sheep are not renowned for their common sense; they need a lot of tending. Perhaps because they stray a lot. Perhaps because they have lots of natural enemies and few defenses. One reason may be that the success of a sheep is not defined in terms of anything it accomplishes, but in terms of what it becomes. Sheep are not expected to pull a plow like oxen, or to carry a rider like a horse. They are expected to eat and grow, to become fat and wooly. This suggests that God cares more about what we become than what we accomplish.
The Fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22 is not “churches built, souls saved, meals prepared for the sick, poor people fed and clothed, well-adjusted children raised.” No. The Fruit of God’s Spirit in us is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, fidelity, gentleness, and self-control.” It is character traits. It is a matter of what we become, not of what we accomplish. If you look for them each time you open your Bible, you will soon find many other examples to support the principle. I can recommend Job chapter 1; Hebrews chapter 11; 2 Corinthians chapter 4; 1 John 3:2.
God cares more about what we become than about what we accomplish. Why? One answer is deceptively simple: What we achieve is temporary. What we become is eternal. In spite of anything I or Barack or Senator McConnell can do, America will eventually pass from the world stage to be replaced by another empire. Chicago is temporary. All its buildings will eventually crumble. A church is temporary, and all my contributions to its growth cannot keep it from ceasing to exist in God’s good time. But you – you individually – are eternal, and if in some small way I help you to grow more like the wonder God intends you to become, that effect will go on when the galaxies are remembered as a very old tale. I am eternal. What I become as I deal with the tasks and trials of this life will be a source of delight to my Creator forever. All achievements are temporary. They matter because they leave a mark of one sort or another on an immortal soul.
Still, I dare not shirk tasks in idleness; not because the tasks are of ultimate value, but because I can become something more than I am only by accepting and accomplishing worthwhile tasks. The principle appears to lead me to the same kind of daily choices I might make if guided only by good old all-American workaholism. The difference I see at present is not in the way I regard myself, but in the way I regard my fellow creatures. Workaholism can make me impatient with colleagues and fellow church members who seem not to be moving a project forward as vigorously as I think they should. Remembering what God cares most about may help me to remember that the project is not to grow the business or the church; the project is to grow this person I am touching at this moment. I must aim to facilitate that, whether by encouraging her to take a vacation or by helping her to recognize and remove an internal roadblock and get back on the horse.
I conclude that the success of the Loaves and Fishes process is not to be determined, even years down the road, by what it did for LaSalle Street Church or for the Near North Side. It is to be judged by what individuals became as they participated in it or in its effects, and only our Master is qualified to carry out that assessment.
Captain of the Blue Tangs Prayer School