Book Sale

Monday 17 April 2023

Nothing Is Truly Our Own

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Nothing is truly our own, it is all a gift from God. Even the things that we are able to do, the things that we create and make and have the most claim that they are our own, are only ours by virtue of the gifts of God. As Isaiah tells us, “O Lord, you will ordain peace for us, for you have indeed done for us all our works” (Isaiah 26:12). Or as Moses tells us, “17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!” (Psalm 90:17). Without the Lord we can do nothing, because all that exists, exists according to his creative will.

It is not necessarily that he does it through us, it is that he gave us these hands, these feet, our mind, our place of birth and the materials with which we create. We can do nothing without the prevenient grace of God. As John C. Wright notes[i]

“The conversation dwelt for a moment upon the scene in Sleeping Beauty where the three fairies rescue the Prince out of the dungeon of the beautiful but evil witch, (so sue me, I always thought she was beautiful). He is told that only truth and righteousness can overcome the evil power of Maleficent, and he is given a magic sword and shield. The fairies protect him from the gargoyles and hobgoblins of the castle, and brush away all their stones and arrows, or turn them into bubbles and flowers, for his fate is not to be stopped by them.

Then, in a scene that hardly seems in keeping with the gentleness of Disney, the evil fairy in a whirlwind of fury appears before the prince, and sheds her beauty forever for hate’s sake, and becomes a monster, announcing: Now shall you deal with me, O Prince, and all the powers of Hell! I voiced the opinion that this climactic scene was perfectly true to life, truer than any documentary, since indeed this is exactly the way life works. No man by his own effort can free himself from the dungeon of sin, despair, and death, but by supernatural intervention by a higher power. And yet that power, not because of any ineffectiveness or indifference, cannot fight man’s final battle for him, but only provide the weapons of truth and virtue, which are magic indeed, enough to slay monsters, and defy not merely some, but all the powers of Hell. The sacraments and gifts from heaven will do their part; man must see to it that he does his, if true love is indeed to conquer all, as all prophets have promised it shall do.

Ah, but the rebuttal to this was swiftly said: my interlocutor thought the scene was a cheat, if not a lie, because the fairies aided the prince. No man needs any help to win life’s battles, or to achieve his dreams. And no help is coming.

This was said, not by a bricklayer, but by a writer, and I fear I swooned in astonishment. Many questions whirled in my pounding head, to which I, strangled with surprise as I was, could give no tongue.

I wondered where he thought his ideas came from? From himself, or from the muses, or whatever name one gives to the mystery of inspiration? Where did the traditions and tropes and tools he used in his writing come from? From himself? Or from his masters and teachers and ancestors? Where did his fame come from? From himself? Or from the kindness of his audience, the grace of good fortune, the smile of heaven?

I must have gasped out some question along these lines of some sort, because he polled all who were listening to the discussion, which was not a small number of people, and asked them who was responsible for their success, in art or in life? Themselves? And all but two raised their hand.

Everyone in the room was content to take credit for the blessings in their lives, as if it were no more than their just wage, the merited reward of their own works.

It is an inescapable truth that no man can take all credit to himself and at the same time feel any gratitude to any for his blessings. If you earned it, it is not a gift. If you earned it by yourself with no one’s aid, you owe no thanks to anyone.

And this indeed was the attitude, which I take to be the modern attitude. The Abolisher triumphantly announced that he needed no good fairies, no magic, no grace, no gift from heaven to achieve all his dreams. He disdained to take a magic sword of Efland; he would forge it by himself, for himself, or do without.”

One of the most basic elements of true humility is recognizing who we are in relation to God. And we are nothing. That is, without God we would not exist, could not exist and therefore all that we have we should thank God for. This thankfulness is the beginning of a truly wise path. It is a wise path because you realize it is a good thing that all that you have comes from a wiser and greater being. The reason it is a good thing is because you realize it is a gift, and gifts are good, gifts are to be enjoyed, celebrated and often shared. Knowing all that you have is a gift creates in your life a sense of thankfulness, and as good as a sense of accomplishment is, thankfulness is always better, because it protects us from pride and pride is a deadly poison to our souls. 

Nothing is truly our own, but by the grace of God we have so much. Praise God for this, and recognize that he will give so much more to those who accept this and believe in him. To the one that rejects this though, his fate will not be so good, “‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away” (Luke 19:26).


[i] Wright, John C.. Transhuman and Subhuman: Essays on Science Fiction and Awful Truth (pp. 436-438). Still Waters Books. Kindle Edition.

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