I’ve been thinking a good bit recently about the elder son (in the parable of the prodigal son found in Luke 15) and the identity crisis that he faced. Just like the younger son, the elder son didn’t want the father, he wanted the father’s things. He just went about it in a totally different way. He thought to himself, “If I just keep the rules, obey my dad, and do what I am supposed to, then I will get what’s coming to me (his inheritance) in due time.” He wasn’t obeying the father because he delighted in him and wanted to honor him. He obeyed the father because it was a means to an end.
I think that it’s pretty easy for Christians to fall into the same trap. We can look at God as a means to an end. And through our obedience and moral conformity believe that God now “owes us” because of our good works. This type of living will result in feelings of superiority over those who don’t hold to the same standards we do, extreme guilt and condemnation when we sin, and fear as our motivation for good works. It’s more than a trap…it’s a pit that leads to despair.
Check out this video from Tim Keller on this subject:
I also thought this was a helpful thought on moralism by C.H. Spurgeon: “For men may be as truly damned in morality as in immorality. Morality is good enough for what it is, but for the salvation of souls it is insufficient. There must be a living faith in a dying Savior, there must be the Spirit of God indwelling in the soul, or else you can never mount to heaven. Oh remember, one sin will sink your soul lower than the lowest hell. Repent therefore, O moralist, and no longer rebuke others, but rebuke thyself.”
May our hope be in Christ and in Christ alone!