Potholder works

Like many American children of the 80’s, I got a potholder kit, I believe one Christmas.

Ah, the potholder kit.  Tiny potholders so you can be sure to burn your hands on the hot pot or pan while using them . . or drop the baked or boiled goods on the floor and possibly all over you.  The material was something very cheap, maybe polyester, thin and silky and not seemingly very stain resistant or grip-helpful.

And how many potholders does a household need?  But I could probably make hundreds with my potholder kit, and an endless supply of the large bags of the ponytail-holder-like doohickeys that were available somewhere (my mom made the unfortunate mistake of buying one such bag for me).

I’m not too craftsy, but the potholders were a breeze.  Simply stretch the loops horizontally over the frame.  Then weave more loops vertically through the first loops and, walla!, a tiny potholder that nobody really wants except possibly your grandparents (if they haven’t gotten too many already).

There was basically no possibility for variety except in color.  I could make yellow-and-white potholders.  Rainbow potholders.  Blue potholders.  Red-and-blue potholders.  Green-and-yellow potholders.  Potholders, potholders, potholders.  Lots of tiny, useless potholders to clutter the house.

I decided in my megalomaniac young brain that I could probably have an empire of potholders.  I could use them to make a business for myself.  I could be a potholder tycoon, a Forbes 100 CEO (if I’d known what Forbes was when I was 8).

Eventually, though, I stopped making potholders.  Maybe even my grandparents stopped buying them.  Or my mom stopped allowing me to sell them so my grandparents’ house wouldn’t burst with potholders.  😉  I don’t know for sure, but I think the real reason I stopped was I simply got sick of making them.

The other day I was thinking about these potholders I used to make . . and legalism.  There’s a lot they have in common, actually.

“Works” that are done to try to impress God are as successful as my potholders.  They don’t serve their purpose, they are more dangerous than useful, they are not attractive, they are tacky, and they are usually heaped up with the idea that “more is more” and that they become more popular/valuable/collectible the more of them you have.

“Works” done in legalism are all pretty much identical.  Oh, they can be different colors.  But they all come out the same size, the same shape, with the same uselessness, and via the same tacky material.

But they’re so, so tempting.  They’re easy to make, they can be served-up fast like cheeseburgers to the drive-thru lane, and they all look reassuringly similar.  The more a pile of them is amassed, the more confident I become that I have an appropriate empire of good works to show God on the Day of Judgement.  Well, that is a relief.  Just in case He is not impressed with my salvation in Jesus He can always look to my works . .

Hold it.

That makes no sense.

If God were to require more than the gift of Christ–could I give it?  Could anyone give it?

Yet why is it, in insecurity and illogic and denial, I try to mass-market my potholder works?

I know in my head and my heart that there is nothing more to be added to the cross of Christ.  I know it well.  And yet, there is some peculiar, evil, bewildering tendency in me to try to appease God anyway.

Why is it so hard to accept the freedom in Jesus Christ?  Why is it so confusing to receive His infinite payment as sufficient?  Why is it I am so inclined to distrust that this is enough, and try to finagle up some ugly works to go with it?

It isn’t because I don’t believe the work of Christ is sufficient, but because I fear God is still not appeased.  How many times in life do we think we know something, and then get in deeper to find out it’s not what we thought?  Just the other day, I was trying to get an allergy shot injection at an urgent care clinic, and they told me it would be $18.50 over the phone and at the front desk.  But when I’d been waiting and they got me back in the patient room, they told me it’d be about another $90 for an office visit.

I am so used to “tack-ons”, aren’t you?  Aren’t you used to there being some other requirement, some other paperwork, some other red tape you haven’t met?  Aren’t you used to finding out that there’s one more step you have to do, one more price you have to pay?

We fear this very same thing about God.  And because we can’t find what the “one more thing” is He requires in Scripture, we pull out our dinky looms and try to weave enough good works as a back-up if we get to Heaven and find out there was more to the deal than we thought.  For some people, it’s holding onto the Ten Commandments (as if we can actually do that on our own).  For some people, it’s holding onto rituals or traditions.  For some people, it’s combing the Scriptures for checklists of requirements that must be met.  For some people, it’s withholding from joy.  And for some people, it’s dutiful service.

In the end, we have our pile of potholders that will go up in smoke on Judgment Day.  And then we will see clearly that only Christ matters.

Until then, we have a choice.  We can struggle time and time again with trusting that God means what He says, and that there’s no tricking going on . . or we can throw the potholder works away and take Him at His Word and His work on the cross.

I take Him at His Word and deed

Christ died to save me, this I read

And in my heart I find a need

Of Him to be my Savior

–Aaron Shust, My Savior My God

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9, NIV)

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