Death by Checklist


Checklist Every week, I start out my work by creating a checklist.  I live and die by the checklist; without it I am pretty sure I wouldn't get anything done.  A lot of us also operate our lives around our checklists.  And not only do we use these lists to guide our decision-making, but many of us rely on our checklists to be our source of worth and validation.

Now most of us probably would never say, “I’m trying to secure my own salvation by checking things off a list.”  But the reality is that everyday when we try to find our worth and our value outside of Jesus, we are doing exactly that.  We are relying on something other than Christ to give us our identity.

In my own life, and probably in many of your lives, I often attach my worth and my identity to work.  I look at my job and can immediately start determining my worth based off of how well I check items off the list.  Am I successful in my job?  Did I get a raise?  Does my boss like me?  Do I like my job?  Is my new business growing?  Am I making enough money?

And if all of these things on my list are going right, it validates me.  It says that I’ve done something right.  And if these things on my list aren’t going right, then I must’ve done something wrong.  If I lost my job or didn’t get the promotion, it immediately makes me question, “What kind of man am I?”  Because if I don’t have the job or I don’t like the job or I don’t do well at the job, this says something about my worth and who I am.

The same thing happens in our homes.

As we take care of our homes as husbands and wives, we have a checklist of things that we need to do and we begin to evaluate ourselves by it.  Is the repair taken care of?  Is the house clean?  Is the laundry done?  Is the lawn cut?  Is dinner on the table?

And so if I do these things, if I can check all the things off the list, it validates me as a person.  And if I can’t do them, it invalidates me.  It says, I’m not living up to what I should be doing.

And this multiplies if you have kids.  Because what parents often do is they not only evaluate themselves based on their performance, but also on their kids’ performance.  So if your kids do well, that says one thing about you, but if they don’t do well in school, that says another thing about you.  If your kids keep hitting their friends, then that says something about how you are doing as a parent.

And so we evaluate ourselves based on how well we perform on the self-created checklists of home life.

And when we do this, we either falsely inflate the way we see ourselves by thinking we’ve done all these things, or we deflate our value because we created a list that we can never live up to.

The same thing happens in our spiritual lives.  We create these spiritual checklists.  Did I have enough quiet time?  Did I evangelize to my co-workers?  Have I spent an hour in prayer today?  Do I only listen to Christian radio?

And it’s not that any of these things are bad things, but what happens is we begin to evaluate our worth as a Christian based on our ability to do these Christian things.  And so if I do these things, it means I’m a good Christian and God is happy with me.  But if I get stuck in Leviticus again because it’s kind of boring, then that somehow says, "God isn’t happy with me."

Killed By Our Lists

When we evaluate ourselves by our completion of checklists, it kills us.  We die a slow and painful death as our checklists either make us arrogant in our own abilities to check things of the list or make us wallow in our inability to ever check everything off the list.

And it’s not that any of the things on the list are even bad things.  Reading your Bible daily is a great thing.  Being a good parent and spouse is crucial.  Loving your job and doing well in your job is an important thing.  But when those things form your identity, we get into trouble.  When the checklists of our home life, spiritual life, and work life begin to shape our sense of worth, we stop trusting the Gospel.

When we evaluate our worth by our performance, we fail to believe that we have all we need in Christ.   And our worth does not rest in how well you do in your job, how great you are at taking care of your home, or even how incredible your devotional life is.  Your worth rests solely in what Christ has done for you.  It rests not in the checklist that you have to complete but in the one that has been completed by Christ.

Photo Credit: VisionsByVicky

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