by Laura Walker Dunn · December 2017

In a recent sermon Rev. John said something that grabbed my attention: “Jesus calls us to be sincere.” Sincere. There’s a word you don’t hear much these days. We hear “be real” maybe, but not “be sincere.” And what does that mean exactly? Is Jesus asking us to be true to ourselves, to be our authentic selves? And are we to rely on our own sense of self to make our way in life?

Last month, Rev. Peggy’s sermon series on the parable “The Prodigal Son” brought me closer to understanding what Jesus is calling us to do. In the parable the older brother thought he was leading the dutiful life meeting all his obligations, and he expects to be rewarded. He is outraged when his father instead heaps rewards on his wayward brother. It’s a rude awakening for the older brother, but what he doesn’t realize is that his sense of righteousness is his sense of self-righteousness. He wants to be rewarded for his own striving to do good; in fact, as Rev. Peggy pointed out, he feels entitled.

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Spiritual writer Richard Rohr describes what’s going on here: “The ego clearly prefers an economy of merit, where we can divide the world into winners and losers, to an economy of grace, where merit or worthiness loses all meaning.” In an economy of grace, he writes, “all the glory goes to God.” We’ll never know if the older son in the story changes his mind, but I’m pretty sure he will remain angry and resentful until he takes to heart his father’s words: “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.”

Over the years I’ve learned the hard way that relying solely on myself is not the answer. In fact, when I try to solve my problems entirely on my own, I fail. When my go-to is my ego, I discover that my need to be in control, my need to be right and my need for recognition for my righteousness often serve as road blocks. I end up cranky, at times even miserable. And it’s then that I am reminded of a slogan that explains why I’m so unhappy: EGO=Edging God Out.

So, back to Jesus’ call to be sincere. When we give up our need to be right all the time, our need for control and our need for recognition and reward, and we open ourselves to God’s love so freely and graciously given for us all—then we are all winners. We are living a “sincere” life, sharing with others and dwelling in the abundance of God’s love and grace.

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