A great man once said that “The Greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions.” We so often deceive ourselves not because we want to be deceived but because we stop short of learning all we can to form an opinion that is full and well informed. Our deception comes from a hurry to be “right” rather than be wise!
But we still have to think, don’t we? Of course we do. The challenge is in learning what protect us best from both self-deception and deception from others. Learning that characteristic, that invincible weapon against deception will mean that we will not be fooled by our own egos or the desires of others. And this one characteristic will also protect us from hatred, envy, jealousy, and fear. OK, you have my attention: What is this characteristic?
Look at our lesson today in Galatians 6:2-10:
BRETHREN, bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if any one thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each man will have to bear his own load. Let him who is taught the word share all good things with him who teaches. Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
St. Paul continues to teach the Galatians the wisdom that will strengthen their lives as purposeful followers of Christ. And here he gives them aspects of this one characteristic that overcomes deceptions.
First, he tells the Galatians to “bear one another’s burdens.” This willingness to help those around you shoulder their difficulties fulfills the whole “law of Christ.” Next, he says that escaping the traps of our own egos sets us free from boasting about our accomplishments as if we never had any help! After all, we are bearing one another’s burdens after all, so no one can claim “I did this all by myself.” Then St. Paul instructs these Galatians not to forget to share “all good things” with those who teach them. Big HINT here! And he adds that no one should be deceived because God will not be mocked! And how do we mock God? By assuming we won’t have to deal with the consequences of our actions. Whatever we sow, we will reap!
Paul ends this massive amount of wisdom with the command to “do good to all men, and especially to those of the household of faith.” In other words, if you can’t be kind and good to those in your parish, how do you ever expect to be good to those who are strangers to you?
And that brings us to the one characteristic that makes all this freedom from deception possible. It is developing the ability to BE grateful! Notice how this one characteristic protects from deception. Gratitude means my heart is soft and attentive to the needs of others. I help them bear their burdens expecting nothing in return because my motivation is gratitude. Gratitude keeps my ego in check because I understand that all good things in my life are gifts and even the talents I develop in my life are gifts to me from a loving God. My ability to be grateful means I’m focused on being my best, not to brag or crow about my accomplishments, but because to leave my gifts and talents undeveloped would be to act ungratefully toward God! And my gratitude for “him who teaches” me the wisdom of the Faith means I share with him from my treasures so that he knows how grateful I am to him for his teaching me!
The characteristic of gratitude is the key to overcoming deception and a life lived too small! This is why at the center of Orthodox Christian worship is the Eucharist. Because learning to be a grateful person is the key to being a godly person
Today, do you know how to develop gratitude in your life? You start by realizing your need to do this in the first place. Then, go to church and learn to focus your whole life on living out the wisdom of the Holy Eucharist. Then, gratefully, you’ll be Orthodox on purpose!
P.S. We wrap up the “Bringing Orthodoxy to America“ Evangelism Conference in Portland, OR today. Thank you Fr. Ted Dorrance and the Metropolis of San Francisco Evangelism office assistant director Thomaida Hudanish for their wonderful hospitality. You will be able to hear more about the Conference on Ancient Faith Radio. Stay tuned!