Their land is filled with idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their own fingers have made.
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
I take my writing and research very seriously. I still remember my very first grad school research paper. After spending scores and scores of hours working on it, I received a pretty good grade for it, and I got a lot of praise from my professor. I even got praise from friends who read my paper. I was very proud of my work.
A commonly repeated refrain throughout the Bible is the command to not worship the work of your hands. Generally, this was in reference to making idols, literally metal or wooden statues that you would worship as a god. Obviously, you and I don’t do anything exactly like this these days. However, what was the principle behind idol worship, and could that apply to us?
The maker of an idol would use his or her own technical skill and inventiveness to create it. In a way, the idol represented the ability and work of the people who made them. By worshiping it, you would be worshiping the skill and ingenuity of your own hands, rather than the One who made those hands.
Following me so far?
As it goes, what I was doing was actually not that different from what people did with idols. I used my papers and grades to convince myself that I was worthwhile. I needed those achievements to feel valuable. I was praising the work of my hands, and through that praising myself.
The name for all this is pride.
Do you ever feel this way? Do you need your achievements, the work of your hands, in order to feel good about yourself? If all your skills were gone, would you still find worth in yourself?
I don’t know if I would.
Paul, the author of the second Scripture at the top, helps give us a solution. He tells us to do everything in the name of the Lord, which means for the Lord’s sake and as the Lord’s own accomplishment. The work of Jesus’ hands is the only work to take pride in.
Jesus, through whom all things were made, his hands have given your hands their strength and dexterity. His hands have given your mind its light and have shaped all your creativity and love.
Instead of taking pride in your own hands, then, you can take pride in Jesus, whose nail-pierced hands give you all your abilities and accomplishments. Lucky for us, he’s not selfish. In the end, when all is said and done, you might just find that any pride you could take in yourself is only a shadow of the pride that Jesus finds in you.