Friday, April 16, 2010

Why I'm pretty sure God would want me to have a leaf-blower.

I own a rake. It has a wooden handle, and a plastic rakey part. It cost about $12 at Walmart, and as far as leaf removal devices go, its about as Luddite as they come. Which would be fine, except that I have trees in my yard. Lots of big trees that produce a healthy leaf crop every year, which makes raking operations a pretty serious business.

I have a hate/like relationship with my rake. Most of the time I hate it. Raking is hard work, and the wooden handle gives me blisters. And on select fall afternoons when I'm sitting by my office window, watching my neighbors blow away their leaves with the greatest of ease, (plus the one neighbor who has a riding leaf sucker!) then I really despise my sad little Walmart rake.

But there is a part of me that also likes my rake, and in a strange way is proud to own the rake. You see, raking is hard, and it takes time, giving me ample opportunity to feel a sinful pride over my rake wielding ways, and look down my nose at my leaf blowing neighbors. I begin to rejoice in the fact that I am not afraid of a little hard work, unlike my neighbors with their fancy leaf blowers (most pitiably the riding-leaf-sucker neighbor two doors down). I exult in my own thriftiness, having had the wisdom and foresight not to spend lavishly on unnecessary frivolities.

It's easy to see what is happening here. I like my rake because I like the opportunity to feel a little self-righteous. I like to feel like I earned my clean yard by the sweat of my brow and I deserve the glory for it. My leaf blowing neighbors are simply cheating, cranking up a gasoline powered engine for ten minutes is nothing of which to be proud. This is just the way my heart works. You'd think that having a more powerful, more costly, more efficient leaf blower would be cause for pride, and having to make do with a rake a cause for humility. But no, I find a way to take pride in using the cheaper, harder, more mundane option.

This is why legalism is so sickeningly attractive and the gospel remains so offensive. The prospect of having to garner favor with God by my behavior sounds to most rational minds like a pretty tough row to hoe. Especially if you know anything about the holiness of the one true God, and the height of his standards! And yet our hearts continue to incline toward this route, because if we can impress God with our obedience and earn it by the sweat of our brow, then we will have something to be proud of. We will be able to glory in ourselves, and look down our noses at those around us who haven't been so successful as ourselves.

The message of the gospel is that we can stop breaking our backs and blistering our hands trying to earn God's favor through our diligent labor. His favor is ours as a gift, all of the work has already been done by someone else, the spotlessly clean yard is ours, and we never had to lift a finger. It stings my pride, but let's face it, this option is better by far. Christ has done what we could never do. He has actually accomplished the feat, he has won the favor of the Father, not only for himself, but for all who are in him by faith. And all the glory goes to Jesus.


Ken said...


Lawn work takes forever, so the real lesson is not about legalism but about eternity. Even CS Lewis in "The Great Divorce" spoke of the sharp blades of grass when he described the heavy reality of heaven.

So, in terms of time, the leaf blower will be exceedingly helpful to give you more time with your new little boy. When he's 6-10 years old, maybe you can hand him the rake to teach him hard work and to give him a chance to live under the law (see my earlier post). But till then, I'd take the quickest route.

Oh, and don't forget to cut corners.


Susan said...

Jeff - great blog. Wish I was so creative.