Is Your Resume Good Enough?
Paul has a sweet resume:
“Circumcised on the 8th day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.” Philippians 3:4-6
Mine’s not too shabby either:
Born to Christian parents (not nominal – these guys were the real deal); dedicated to Christ as a baby at First Baptist Haughton, LA; baptized at age 6 at Southside Baptist Church Abilene, TX (certainly I get extra points for growing up in TX); I practically had perfect church attendance (including but not limited to AWANA, Bible Drill, GA’s, Mother daughter teas, father daughter banquets, kids choir, youth group - including lock-ins); homeschooled in elementary school; attended Christian Middle School, Christian High school, Christian College; attended 3 Passion Conferences; virgin on my wedding day; went on a foreign mission trip; regular tither… ok, you’re getting bored, I’ll stop.
I unknowingly clung tightly to this resume for years - Because I knew that if I ever let it burn, it meant that the girl with the shameful resume, the resume littered with heinous sin, the one filled with indulgence or hate, stood before God as my equal… And that really bothered me.
Are you familiar with Jesus’ teaching on the prodigal son (Luke 15)? Great parable… until you get to the part about the older brother…
A man has two sons. The younger asked his Dad for his inheritance, so his Dad gave it to him, and the boy went away. He then lived it up with prostitutes and great food, and then he ran out of money. He ended up with a job feeding pigs, and was so hungry that when he started eyeballing the pig food he thought to himself, “What am I thinking? My Dad’s servants have it better than this. I will return home and beg him for a job.”
When the boy returns home, he does not even get the chance to ask for a job before his Dad embraces him and kisses him. When the son finally gets the chance to apologize, his Dad calls for the servants to bring out some top of the line clothes for him because they were going to have a party to celebrate his return. This is where I (the older brother) come on the scene.
25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look,these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’
I always used to hate this part of the parable, I sympathized with this guy. Here he is, working hard, building his resume (vs 29), becoming the son that deserved the love of the father. Now his brother, with this shoddy resume, completely undeserving, comes home, and his return is celebrated! You have got to be kidding me, Dad! Listen to my resume: I have served you for many years! I have never disobeyed your commands! Why is there no celebration for me? He is mad… and rightfully so… or so I thought…
When Jesus told this parable, there were a variety of people hanging around - Luke 15:1-2 mentions tax collectors, sinners, Pharisees, and scribes. The Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” You see, like the older brother, they did not understand God’s love. They wanted their “law keeping” to be required to earn it, and they wanted their heritage to count for something. If God loved everybody, and could truly forgive any repentant heart, the ground became level for saints and sinners alike, and they would lose their advantage - that meant that all of their hard work was wasted trying to earn a love that had already been fully given to them.
And in the same way, they refused a salvation that required “so little”...because if their heritage and “law keeping” weren’t required, it meant that they had nothing to offer except a repentant heart… a heart admitting it’s need, it’s filth… and that is exactly what they did NOT want to give. Listen to what Paul says about them in verse 2:
“Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those of the false circumcision.”
These guys were trying to beef up their resume with bonus points! It is so natural to skim over warnings like this one, and to think of others who might fit this shameful description so that we can beware of them. But I had never stopped to consider that I was doing that very same thing.
I had always grouped myself with the disciples because I was a devoted follower of Christ, but what I did not realize is that deep down I was actually a lot like a Pharisee. I needed my resume to count for something. I offered it up to God to make His job a little easier… to make Christ’s death on the cross a little less necessary. My flesh yearned for extra credit because I wanted to need him a little less desperately and to deserve His love a little more.
Although I had given up a huge chunk of my resume in college when I quit depending on my parent’s faith and began to grow in Christ on my own, from that point on, I still clung to all of my right biblical answers, and generally clean slate as my form of extra credit. But about 5 years ago, the church where I had attended for many years was falling apart as I witnessed how knowledge of the Bible, the most impressive thing on my resume, can become a destructive form of idolatry.
I had no clue what to offer the Lord anymore. Because of what I had witnessed, I knew that biblical knowledge was completely inadequate. And God, in His perfect timing, began to open my eyes to the filthiness of my “clean” slate. This terrified me as I began to see the utter worthlessness of my resume. And in this posture I learned what it meant to work out my salvation with fear and trembling.
I remember laying face down on the living room floor crying one day in a place of thorough brokenness, and somehow I knew that this was exactly what He wanted all along – Me needing Him – ONLY Him - SO very desperately.And as God poured out His love on me, a girl with empty hands and a wicked heart, I began to understand the Father’s response in the parable:
31 And he said to him,
‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.
32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad,
for this your brother was dead, and is alive;
he was lost, and is found.’”
Son, don’t you know that there is nothing that you could ever do to deserve or lose my love? It is not earned, but is freely given. You are always mine. Your brother is always mine. I don’t want your resume, and I don’t want your brother’s resume. I just want you.
So now I can rejoice in this parable, especially the part about the older brother. And I can understand what Paul meant in Philippians 3 when he wrote: “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.”
As we fall at the feet of Jesus, the resume of the prostitute, the Bible study teacher, the addict, the humanitarian, the prisoner, the home school mom – are all equally abolished by the power of His death and resurrection. So I no longer look down at the prodigal, because we are side by side, face to the ground, begging forgiveness. And our Father is there, not looking over our resume, but looking at us. Loving us, rejoicing over his children.
Lindsey Newcomer spends most of her time managing the Newcomer household, which she falls more in love with every day. She’s a typical housewife with a few exceptions – she doesn’t exercise, iron, or drink coffee. She can count on one hand the number of things she takes seriously – foosball and her daily 8pm bowl of Cheerios probably make the cut… but the weight of her sin, and the depth of love that Jesus Christ poured out through the cross sober her like nothing else. She loves how these verses from Hosea sum up God’s relationship with her: “And I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you to me in righteousness and justice, in steadfast love and mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD.”