How many causes are there these days? There is a cause for everything. Every color of the rainbow (even the rainbow itself) represents something that I should support or denounce. A red X says I’m against human trafficking. A pink ribbon says I want to save the ta-tas. I’m green if I drive a hybrid. And on and on it goes. It seems each day is a day for a cause of some sort that calls me to action. Buy Tom’s shoes so that someone somewhere gets a pair of shoes. Don’t buy coffee unless it is free-trade coffee. Drink Coke from this can so we can save the polar bears.
Now don’t get me wrong – no, get me wrong if you want, I’ve had it. Let me put this as plainly as I can: Your cause does not make you a good person. I don’t care how great your cause is or how many you have. I don’t care if you have the bracelet, wear the t-shirt, eat the free range chicken, post a picture on facebook, or whatever other noble expression you choose to make your cause known. Your cause does not make you a good person.
Now why the attack on causes? I have nothing against people doing good things for others. But I am over the self-righteous attitude that comes with so many of these causes. I watch the church train our kids to be causanauts and call it discipleship. We preach a works-righteousness religion. We tell them, “You had better sleep in this cardboard box for the night to show your solidarity with homeless people or you don’t care.” We dress up the cause with a Scripture verse and then declare that it is our Christian duty to support or protest whatever it is. That is nothing more that a first-class guilt trip. And it is exactly what the Pharisees did to the people of Israel.
Preaching this religion causes spiritual pride faster than any else I can think of. “I’m a good person. I support_______, I bought the right kind of _________, I posted ________ on my FB. I’m aware. I care.” Don’t kid yourself. You feel better when you have the cause de jour in front of others. That’s why there are so many Causanauts. We all want to feel good about ourselves in a culture where good is relative. We trumpet our cause because we want to be good in a culture that no longer has a definition of good. Causes give people who don’t believe in morals moral authority.
The Bible teaches us in Micah 6:8 to “do justly, love mercy and (get this) walk humbly with your God.” Jesus teaches us in Matthew 6:1-4, “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ (read: causes) before men to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets (read: FB, bracelets, t-shirts, ribbons, etc), as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be done in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done is secret, will reward you.”
Jesus tells us to do these good things in secret because it will prevent us from becoming prideful and believing that we are good people. The good things we do can actually callous our hearts and prevent us from hearing the truth about who we really are and what we really need to do in order to be justified before a holy God.
Luke 18:9-14 illustrates it perfectly. “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Causanauts are like the Pharisee, blinded and calloused by his own good deeds. He could not see the truth about who he really was: a sinner who couldn’t possible do enough good things to measure up to a Holy God. He thought he was a good person. As a result he did not go home justified before God. The tax collector who could admit the truth about himself, a sinner, was able to get right with God. You cannot have a relationship with Christ when you think you are good enough because you cannot see the evil in your own heart and repent.
Jesus warns those who practice a works-righteousness religion. Matthew 7:21-23, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
Many people will list their causes and all they did, even in His name, on that day only to be turned away. The only way to be justified before God is to admit you are not a good person, surrender to Jesus, and let His righteousness cover you.
Do good deeds. Love God. Love others. But don’t be a Causanaut. It doesn’t end well.