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Twisting Grace

"What did you learn in Sunday school today?" I asked my nine-year-old son as we drove home from church one day.

"Oh, nothing," he replied proudly, keeping his gaze fixed out the window.

I paused and studied him in the rearview mirror, noting his boastful demeanor. "What do you mean?" I asked, trying to draw him out.

"There was nothing to learn because I knew it all already," he said, straightening his back. I could see the pride surface in his heart.

I paused and considered letting the conversation end there. Challenging my kids' sin when emotions are high after church and stomachs are growling isn't ideal, and I could tell he wasn't interested in unpacking his answer. But as I saw how casually he entertained arrogance in his heart, I could feel mine stir the same in deflecting my role as his mother and knew God was nudging me to press in.

"I feel like that sometimes too," I said, "but here's the thing." I waited until he looked up and caught my eye in the rearview mirror. "When we think we know everything already, we definitely won't learn anything at all."


My son and I had a friendly chat about humility that day, and he's since approached Sunday school a little differently, but it made me think of how often we, as adults, have attitudes like this. Only, it's more sophisticated and blinding than a child's.

We approach the bible with ourselves in mind, looking to see what we can gain. We protect our sinful parenting habits believing we're valuing what's most important in our children's lives. We minimize other people's experiences because we've learned the hard way and believe we know more than them because we've already walked through the same phase of life. And we can't understand why other people aren't like us when we've figured out how to put others above ourselves.

The list goes on.

Without even trying, we take the knowledge God has granted to us and the good things he's done in our lives and put ourselves smack dab in the center. Even when we think we're making it about God. We are notorious for twisting his grace in our lives in a way that puffs us up, even when we think we're being humble.

Any conscious narrative that centers around our humility is pride at play in our hearts.

When we are the center of our focus, whether in a building up or a tearing down manner, we've already taken our eyes off God and placed them on ourselves. It's the same crime as in the garden of Eden, the one our hearts gravitate towards without even trying.


We resist God and replace him with ourselves, on repeat.

Humility knows we are sheep who wander astray with our heads down, focused on satisfying our bellies. Humility recognizes when we are lost and in need of our shepherd. It responds when we hear God calling and confesses when we see our sin. Humility functionally believes today is not about us and instead is about God. In the words of C.S. Lewis, "...True humility is thinking of yourself less..."

I don't know about you, but most of my thoughts in a day don't naturally settle and center around God, his character, or his glory. They center around me-----what I'm doing, what I know, who I'm caring for, what I deem important, and what that looks like.

As a chosen race, we are not a people who already know God; we are a people who desperately need to remember God.

God didn't deliver his people from slavery, lead them and provide for them through the desert, give them the law and bring them to the promised land to say, "Okay, you're good to go! You have learned everything there is to learn and know everything you need to know." No. God instructed them to remember him. His name and his character. His word and his ways. Not because God's goal for his people was to know everything there was to know about him, but because God knew how arrogant and rebellious their hearts were and that they would actively need to fix their eyes on him. God knew his people would resist him without even trying and replace him with themselves, then blame him for not getting their way.

God's people repeatedly rebelled by default because they kept trusting in their knowledge of God rather than in God himself. They took what he did and made it about themselves, which is still happening today.

Hopefully, we can learn a lesson from the Israelites and prioritize exposing and destroying arrogance in our hearts instead of letting it lead us astray. Rather than casually entertaining our sin, may we actively take our eyes off ourselves and remember God, who gave us eyes in the first place even to see our sin, then died for it.

We don't humble ourselves. God humbles us as we fix our eyes on him.


That day in the car with my son wasn't a good parenting moment because of anything I did or said; it was God's grace in his life and mine, exposing our sin and helping us confront our hearts.

I'm not concerned about whether or not my child feels like he's learning new things in Sunday school every week or if he knows absolutely everything there is to know about God. (Don't get me wrong, I'm all about good theology!) But I'm more concerned about him learning to apply what he knows to his everyday life----actively turning his eyes from himself and remembering God. And learning not to entertain sin in his heart.

That's where I come in as his mom. The only way I'm finding I can train and help him effectively is to not entertain the sin in mine.


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