Monday, November 19, 2012

Sewing fig leaves

When fundraising isn't going well, I suddenly become very helpful.
CC image courtesy of John Leach on Flickr

I mean, I generally try to be helpful. I take out the trash. I mow the lawn. I serve at my church. I offer to help friends move.

However, there's something different about my degree of helpfulness when fundraising isn't going well. I'm suddenly going out of my way to find ways to help. I upgrade all the software on my wife's computer. I start dusting the house for the second time that week. I consider mowing my neighbor's lawn.

None of those things are bad activities in and of themselves, but when I take into account the motivation behind WHY I'd become so helpful, I often realize something:

I'm sewing fig leaves.

Here's what the Bible says about it in Genesis 3, picking up at probably the most tragic moment in history:
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. (Genesis 3:6-7 ESV)
Immediately upon tasting of the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve come to a shameful conclusion: they're naked! To remedy the problem, they snatched up some fig leaves and covered themselves.

That's the same thing I'm doing when I become "helpful": I realize that something is wrong, I see myself as the problem, and so I look for a way to cover up my shame. I find some activity to serve as my fig leaves and I hide behind those activities as a way of covering over my shame.

There's only one problem with that: it doesn't fix the problem! Here's what the next verse in Genesis tells us:
And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. (Genesis 3:8 ESV)
Even though they'd covered up their nakedness, they still felt shame - thus they hid among the trees.

Similarly, when I get the reports about my fundraising, all my helpful activities don't actually hide anything. My shortcomings are plain. I then look for something more substantial to hide behind just as Adam and Eve did. However, neither trees nor additional helpful activities will hide our shame from the eyes of the LORD.

So we need a real solution. If fig leaves and trees and helpful activities can't cover our shame, what will?

Here's God's solution a few verses later:
And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.
(Genesis 3:21 ESV)
Note several things about these new coverings:
  1. They were made from "skins". That is, something was sacrificed to provide the clothing.
  2. They were a gift from God. Adam and Eve didn't need to do any more sewing.
  3. They were superior coverings. Garments of skin > loincloths of leaves.
That's good news! Yet each of these things point forward to even better news - God's ultimate solution:
  1. Jesus sacrificed His skin; His body was broken to cover our shame.
  2. Jesus is the greatest gift from God. We don't need to do anything to receive this covering.
  3. Jesus is the perfect covering. Jesus > helpful activities
That means that when my fundraising is going poorly, even if it's my fault, I can trust in Christ as my covering. I can freely engage in as many helpful activities as I want - but I can perform them out of a heart of gratitude and freedom rather than a heart of fear and self-justification.

So let's choose to lay down our sewing needles.

Let's wear the righteousness of God instead.