It’s back to school time … at least in the United States. Although reconvening classes while it’s still the summer makes no sense to me, the buses are indeed rolling through the neighborhood this week. Being homeschooled, Leia (who is my fourth and final student) won’t start her senior year of classes for another couple of weeks, but all the talk about school has us thinking about our fall responsibilities. So yesterday, I started pulling out books from the basement and managed to locate the anatomy book, American Sign Language books and the well-used writing and style guides that she’ll need for research papers for her dual enrollment college English courses.
As I dusted off the worn cover of that particular book, I found myself thinking about all the papers I’ve helped the kids with through the years. Being a writer myself, I’ve frequently warned them against plagiarism, that is, copying the work of others and calling it your own. But as I thought about it a little more, I realized that students aren’t the only ones who are tempted to plagiarize.
Unknowingly, believers are sometimes guilty of a similar same kind of thing. I mean, isn’t it true that we sometimes look at things that God has done in our lives and then take the credit for them instead of acknowledging Him as the source of all that composes our lives?
Ephesians 2:8-9 in the English Standard Version says “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Make no mistake, all we have and all we are is authored by God. Though it’s true that we must believe the Gospel and choose to follow in His ways every day, ultimately any righteousness or goodness that resides in us is not penned by us. I realize that it’s easy to assess any personal improvements and give ourselves a pat on the back for our hard work or individual efforts, but as believers, we’d do well to replace that leaning toward self-congratulations with honest and humble gratitude.
Maybe that’s what Paul was trying to tell us in his closing remarks of his letter to the church in Phillippi. Chapter 4, verse 4 encourages believers to “Rejoice in the Lord always.” He reiterates this to the Thessalonians by reminding the young church to “give thanks in everything, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
No matter what good (or bad) things come our way, choosing how we react to them, and most importantly, how we think about them is the key to being free from the tendency to sign our name to a story that isn’t written by us. This kind of gratitude helps us cite the real Source and in a practical way, give Jesus His rightful place as “author and finisher of our faith.” Heb 12:2