The tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. Luke 18:13-14a
Counterproductive. That’s a good word. Counterproductive. If you asked me to define the word counterproductive, I would say it is doing or saying something that is contrary to what you are trying to accomplish. If you asked me to use the word counterproductive in a sentence, I would say, “Last week, when Stanley Burt used a bulldozer to repeatedly ram the police station in Troy, New Hampshire, it was counterproductive to getting the law to respect him and his driving ability.”
That paragraph, of course, calls for an explanation. Stanley Burt had just spent 12 months in jail for being a habitual motor vehicle offender. With no less than 20 driving offenses on his record, Stanley felt he was being harassed. Wishing to prove he is a good driver, Stanley stole a bulldozer and used it to repeatedly ram and take out the front of the police station.
The only injury sustained in the incident was to Stanley’s driving reputation. His bulldozer battery has left him charged with criminal mischief, reckless conduct with a deadly weapon, as well as some probation, and driving violations. Stanley’s actions were counterproductive.
And so are the actions of many people in Scripture. When Adam and Eve tried to pass the blame for eating the forbidden fruit, that was counterproductive. When David had Bathsheba’s husband killed so his adultery might not be discovered, that was counterproductive. When Judas denied knowing anything about Jesus’ betrayal, that lie was counterproductive to his salvation. Every one of those actions was counterproductive to the Holy Spirit reaching a sinful heart and bringing it to repentance and forgiveness.
That’s the point Jesus was trying to make when He talked about the Pharisee and the Publican. The Pharisee’s proud prayer was counterproductive to his relying on the Lord. On the other hand, the Publican’s “Lord be merciful to me a sinner” ended up with him going home forgiven.
No matter how sincere, how sacrificing, how earnest are our actions, everything we humans try to do to save ourselves is counterproductive. This is why we need Jesus. He has, through His life, suffering and death done all that is necessary for us to be forgiven and saved. Christ’s cross brings an end to our Christian counter productivity.
This means depending completely on Jesus we are free to live thankful lives of Christ-sharing productivity.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, forgive me for thinking I can fix myself. I can’t. Let me look to Your cross and empty tomb where I can clearly see what You have done to save me. In Your Name. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries
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