How Many Heaven Points Do You Have?
Sunday, January 22, 2012Tweet
How many heaven points do you have?
I mean, let's see, we practice NFP, so that's gotta be one point, and we tithe 10%, so that's another point, and I go to Mass every weekend -- actually twice, so I guess that's two points, with maybe a bonus point for singing in the choir...
I hope you realize I'm not serious.
Yet I keep seeing this way of thinking cropping up, particularly among those who seem to be feeling guilty that they aren't doing everything right.
Take family size, for example. Not only within the Quiverfull movement but among in some NFP-practicing Catholic circles (as I've written about before), there is this notion that those who strive to have large families are somehow the most holy, the most Christian, the most obedient to God's Law.
Of course, there are caveats, like if you're not married (wouldn't want you having sex outside of marriage now!) or if you are part of a religious order. But the married couples who are being most "fruitful" are clearly the holiest... right?
The upshot of this is that I see women who are already receiving pressure from society about their "biological clocks" stressing out about not getting married soon enough or not making babies soon enough or feeling called to parent only a few children.
Do we really think God is up there with His clipboard going, "Oh, you get bonus points for having your 10th child! But you, you lose points because you only had two children"?
What about material goods? Is God counting the square footage of your home and giving you blessings the tinier your living space is? Is he docking points because you buy a 4-bedroom house?
Do you automatically lose points if you had the misfortunate to be born in the wealthiest country in the world and didn't immediately decide to leave?
Do you see how ridiculous this sounds, and how completely out of line with the Gospel?
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also." (Matthew 23:25-26)
I've been reading The Message version of the Gospels, which, because of the conversational tone in which it's written, means that I'm able to read through an entire book much faster. It's given me a broader perspective on Jesus' teachings, and I see just how much He repeats the same few simple messages: It's what it's your heart that matters. Have faith. Treat other people with love.
These are things you can't count up on a scoreboard or check off on a checklist.
They require a complete transformation and giving of self.
They are about who you are at your core, and then what you do because of who you are. Not because of what you think you're supposed to do to get into heaven.
It's the same reason scorekeeping doesn't work in marriage. You do loving things for your spouse because you love your spouse. If everything you do is a way to balance the books, to make sure you've done "your share" of things; if you have sex only because you're supposed to and not out of any affection for your spouse; if you are constantly calculating whether you've done "enough," then haven't you lost touch with what a loving marriage looks like?
Why should our relationship with God be any different?
Not everyone has the same callings in life. We know this, and we see it in the Bible as well. Jesus Himself says only some people are called to marriage (Matthew 19:11) and Saint Paul says God gives everyone different gifts and different ministries (1 Corinthians 12:4-6). The core commandments remain the same -- faith, hope, love -- but can we really expect the manifestations of those to look exactly the same in every person's life?
Let go of your guilt for not living the perfect Christian life. There are no heaven points to be earned. There is no one right answer for everyone to the questions, "How many children should I have?" or "How many possessions am I allowed to own?"
Instead ask, "Where am I forgetting to trust God? How can I do better at loving others?"
Those are much more difficult and more worthwhile questions.