I’ve had this thing going lately about biscuits. It is probably due to the colder (delicious) fall air. This is the season of comfort food. But to have comfort food, there needs to be a comfort person. This is not just the season to have a hot dinner hitting the table, it is the season to have a person who loves you putting it there. In my life (prompted by the cute faces that travel about my home at half height) this has somehow become a burning need to perfect biscuits. Of course there are other things too, but biscuits are just so symbolic.
Biscuits make up a small part of the culinary world. They are easy and quick, and have been satisfying children leaving honey trails on the table for generations. But biscuits have to be made. It isn’t enough to think of biscuits, because having thought of them doesn’t make a childhood more full. Having thought of them doesn’t give the dinner table that wonderful allure that having actually made them does. Your thoughts alone will not play into the memories of your children.
A little guilt cycle often happens in the life of a mother. It usually goes something like this, and could take anywhere from two minutes to two years to complete itself:
I thought of biscuits. I would like to be a person who makes biscuits for my hungry children. I do not feel like making biscuits right now. I will make biscuits another time. I will have time when I am not tired and feeling fat. The kids won’t know. I wish I had made biscuits. I could have made biscuits. I’m such a bad mom who doesn’t make biscuits. I am not as good as all the moms who are everywhere in this stupid world making biscuits. People who talk about making biscuits are self-righteous. I hate biscuits. They make me feel guilty. Jesus loves me! Biscuits or not! Jesus doesn’t care that I didn’t make biscuits. Home free! Biscuit-free!
Of course the conclusion here is perfectly accurate. Jesus doesn’t care in the abstract whether or not you are making biscuits. And of course biscuits are only an example of something that you could do for your children, might not want to do, wish you had done, and then feel stricken with guilt over not doing. It could just as easily be decorating your kids’ room, sewing a dress, making the birthday cake they wanted, talking to them in the evening longer than you wanted to, quitting your job to prioritize spending time with them, cleaning the bathroom, or any other thing that could actually be done — anything that could qualify as a work.
The thing is, works-righteousness is a damning theology. Jesus did the work for us by living sinlessly and dying for our sins. We cannot earn anything by doing, so it is dangerous to start talking about anything that Christians should be doing. If you could be the most accomplished mother in the world on your own strength, it wouldn’t matter in the end. There is no freedom from sin that you can find by doing something. Jesus is all. His blood is sufficient, and there is nothing you can do that will change that.
But His blood will change you. When Jesus is all, things happen. When you believe to your core that you are forgiven and loved, one of the first things that happens is you start doing things. Fruit is intimately connected with forgiveness. When we are forgiven, we do not gallop out into a life of ambiguity and indifference. We do not become great negotiators of whether or not it matters that we aren’t doing things. We become filled with gratitude, love, joy, and peace. And then, having a firm foundation of another’s righteousness, we are free to go out and do.
Jesus does not care even the tiniest bit what you do for your salvation, because there is nothing you can do for it. But He cares very much what you do with it. Having been given it, go out and . . . reflect on all the things that you don’t have to do? be embittered by every appearance of work? despise anything that doesn’t come easily to you, that might be difficult? choose to be above the physical world? look down on sisters who are getting more done than you?
What is fruit but the outworking of our salvation? Take what you have been given, and turn a profit on it. The parable of the talents in Matthew 25 is quite relevant here. The master gives gold to his servants before he leaves on a journey. Two of them use the gold to earn more. Their investment pleases the master. He says, “Well done!” But the man who is given one talent and merely keeps it safe does not please him. “Why would you bury what I gave you? Why would you sit on it in fear? What I gave you was to be used. Turn a profit on it.”
Is this us? Are we always guarding the gold we were given, always afraid of losing something? Are we storing up an arsenal of unbaked biscuits with which we will feed no one? And when our Master returns and asks us, “What have you done with what I have given you?” will we point at the other servants and say, “Look at them! They thought the gold you gave us wasn’t sufficient. I knew it was, so I hid it, to keep it safe for Your return”?
Our Master did not give us this gold of forgiveness so that we might hide it. He wants us to use it. He wants us to make things happen with it. He wants us to take our salvation and turn it into biscuits, hot on the table. He wants us to take our salvation and turn it into contagious joy, into sacrifice for others. He wants us to use it.
The love of Christ is not the reason that we don’t have to do things. It is the reason we get to do things freely. If you had no gold, there would have been nothing to invest. If your Master gave you gold, you should not be sitting on it.
In Christian circles there is constant talk about free salvation. It is free, thank God. But it is only free to us. God paid a great price for it. Jesus paid with His blood. It is free to us because someone else paid a great deal. And this is why we do not work out our salvation by never doing anything that might be hard or difficult to us. We imitate Christ, and we make sacrifices for others. We do things that are hard, that cost us much, because we want our gifts to be free to others.
It is so easy for us as mothers to look at the work we do on behalf of our families and resent that it is free to them. Look at those kids, thinking that the clean clothes just appear magically. Look at these people, not valuing the cost of my work. Look at this ungrateful family who just takes the food and eats it. Like it was free! But it is very important that we see the damage that this kind of thinking brings with it.
When we want the cost to be shared by all, we are not imitating Christ. When we imitate Christ, we want to give what costs us much, and we want to give it freely. Of course we have short-term vision, and often we feel like when we freely give, we need to see right away that it is being used responsibly. We worry that our free sacrifice will make our children greedy takers.
We think that we can see how wrong it would be if they thought that our making of biscuits was in any way easy. We want to know, within the next fifteen minutes, that everyone saw what we sacrificed, acknowledged it gratefully, thanked us profusely, reflected on it quietly, and came up with a way to repay us. But God thinks in much, much bigger story lines.
So imitate Christ in your giving. Do it daily, do it in as many little ways as you possibly can. Find a way to imitate Him in the folding of the laundry, in the stocking of the fridge, in the picking up of other people’s socks. And then decide consciously that you are giving this meal, this clean room, this cheerful Christmas — that you are giving it all freely. And much later, maybe thirty years later, you would like to see your children turn a profit on it. You would like to see your kids taking what they were freely given and turning it into still more free giving. This is because God’s story is never little. He works in generations, in lifetimes, and He wants us to do the same.
So if the very suggestion of something you might do makes you bristle, if it makes you feel judged or threatened or angry, you need to look to Christ. Your salvation has been paid for; this isn’t about that. Stop and be grateful. Thank God things to bake have nothing to do with your salvation. Thank Him for loving you. Thank Him that He has given you so much to use.
Then, after you have remembered the strength of your salvation, go out and do something with it. Find ways to use what you have been given to freely bless those around you. Tie on an apron and dust yourself lightly with flour. You are not here in this world to work your salvation in (thank God), you are here to work it out.
There are a million different ways to use this kind of gold. As much as God wants us to be using it, He wants us to be using it in different ways. We don’t all need to be making biscuits, but we should all be doing something. We should be getting our hands into stuff to give. We should be blessing others, thinking of others, giving to others. And we should be doing it so freely that we don’t remember it, because we are willing to wait to see what is done with it. We are willing to see, years down the road, what kind of interest accrued on those biscuits.
This blog post is chapter two from Rachel Jankovic’s new book, Fit to Burst: Abundance, Mayhem, and the Joys of Motherhood (Canon Press, 2012), 19–25. Posted by permission of the publisher. The book is available exclusively from Canon Press as a pre-release special (order by December 7th to have in time for Christmas). The book officially releases in late January.