Why do we irritate others?

“…her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her.”(1 Samuel 1:6)

What moves us to provoke others? Even when we are so richly blessed, why do we feel the need to grind others down?

Perhaps it is a lack of thankfulness, we fail to remember and acknowledge God as the provider of everything we need. Our lack of gratitude hardens our heart to the troubles others face.

Perhaps it is a fear of loosing what we have, and and since we lack a sense of control we lash out and exercise our power.

Perhaps it is greed, and we can’t stand the reality that others may possess what we also have. We see God’s blessings as limited and feel if others are blessed, we will somehow miss out on what we may gain.

Perhaps it is a lack of contentment, we refuse to be satisfied with what we have and so we tear down others because we lack peace. If we are not content, why should others be?

Perhaps it is a lack of joy and in our misery we seek to ruin the happiness of others.

Perhaps it is a lack of confidence, and in our insecurity we think that we make ourselves strong when we shine a light on the weaknesses of others.

The human heart is complex, a maze with constantly shifting walls. We act poorly, and because we don’t take the time to examine our motivations, we easily justify and rationalize our terrible deeds.

What a difficult challenge from Jesus: blessed are the peacemakers! It is so much easier to cause discord than sow peace. We ought to help carry the burdens of others, not add to them. When we live in biblical fellowship, we fulfill the law of Christ.

Life Together, D. Bonhoeffer

Every human idealized image that is brought into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be broken up so that genuine community can survive. Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest, and sacrificial.

–Life Together, D. Bonhoeffer


No One Lacks Integrity

Let us consider two essential dynamics of the spiritual life.

Faith without deeds is dead. Belief is not enough.

Without faith it is impossible to please God. Actions are not enough either.


The spiritual life consists of thinking right thoughts and doing right actions. Growing spiritually is the process of thinking MORE right thoughts and doing MORE right actions.

It’s not enough to believe the right things, and only have “head knowledge,” our faith must most motivate real actions.

It’s not enough to do the right things, and simply be a person people consider “good,” our good actions must be born out of a love for God.


Many people can answer tough theological questions and paint colorful pictures describing God … but they aren’t actually loving other people: Living in community, demonstrating grace, and speaking the truth in love.

Many people get along with others and are well liked because they are kind…but they aren’t actually moved by their love for God: acknowledging his power, thankful for his gifts, and trusting his promises.


The spiritual life is like a rope, a pair of cords twisted together.


From God’s perfect point of view, there is no separation between faith and deeds. 0ur actions in the world and attitudes of the heart are inseparable. A tree is known by it’s fruit.


The challenge therefore is not to match up our inner thoughts and outer actions—they are already a mirror image of one another. A tree is known by its fruit.


“You lack integrity!” is a cry that comes from a human perspective. One person sees and acknowledges the corrupt heart of another…


The challenge for the growing believer is to walk in step with God’s Spirit, spend time in God’s Word, and share authentically with God’s people…in these simple practices we receive greater insight into our hearts and greater wisdom in our actions.


Let us evaluate our understanding of what is good and right and true. Is it based on God’s Word or our personal experience?

Let us examine our motivations behind our kind words and good deeds. Are we looking for selfish gain or promoting God’s kingdom?


You know you are growing spiritually when we are thinking new thoughts (or rejecting lies) and when we are obeying more often.


The spiritual life isn’t a list of things to do, nor is it a list of things to know. It is both.


Witness as Worship

“Look at the nations and watch—and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.” (Habakkuk 1:5)

It would be so much simpler if I could get all the life change I needed from just listening and learning from God. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work this way. At least, not all the time.

Without a doubt, we must discover and develop the discipline of listening to God speak. His Word and his Spirit is invaluable for our spiritual progression. We must also devote ourselves to discernment, the spiritual habit of looking out in to the world to see where God is working.

God is speaking, YES! But he is also acting, moving, working in the world. He is DOING amazing things that we need to see so that we might understand, appreciate, and respond with awe. There are some spiritual vistas we can only reach by witnessing God at work.

Naturally, this teaching is paralleled in our human relationships. Actions speak louder than words. Integrity leads to credibility. We learn more from example than lecture. Witnessing a great act of sacrifice and service is more powerful than hearing about a person’s willingness to sacrifice and serve.

Let’s reboot and start from the beginning. The spiritual life is about growing closer to God, understanding him more, obeying him more. Because God is infinite in every direction—power, love, understanding, presence—growing closer to him naturally leads to moments of wordless awe and amazement. We will discover these things in quiet reflection and time in God’s word, but we also must be looking out into the world and witness where God is working.

Better to see the sun set than have someone describe it.


Do your duty! (just don’t be legalistic about it)

You might not be comfortable with thinking about your faith in terms of duty. I get it. Obligation isn’t a pretty word.

Jesus told a parable:

Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, “Come along now and sit down to eat”? Would he not rather say, “Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink”? Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say: “We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.”

The Bible is clear:

  • We are called to friendship with God (John 15:15).
  • We are called into God’s family, he is our Father, the one we can call “daddy” (Romans 8:15).
  • The God we worship understands everything about us because he was tempted as we are, but did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15)

There is great hope in these teachings: God is our friend, father, sympathizer. In these, there is also a subtle danger: careless familiarity.

This attitude towards God can lead to a entitled view of God’s grace. We don’t watch our lives too carefully because we know we’ll be forgiven. Additionally, from this flawed faith can spring a casual worship, one that lacks the reverence God deserves. Finally, when we are “just friends” with God, obedience to his commands can take a back row seat in regards to our priorities.

Every believer owes a duty to God, and this obligation isn’t an unspiritual thing. Legalism is unspiritual.  Jesus taught against legalism (on several occasions, but for one, check out Matthew 23). Isaiah also spoke out against legalism:

“So then, the word of the Lord to them will become: Do this, do that, a rule for this, a rule for that; a little here, a little there— so that as they go they will fall backward; they will be injured and snared and captured.

There is an important difference between duty and legalism, and it is found in the heart of the servant of God.

DUTY is a response to grace, LEGALISM is the attempt to earn it.

DUTY leads to fulfillment, LEGALISM leads to entitlement.

LEGALISM springs from guilt, DUTY is birthed in gratitude.

Do the good things due God, but do them for the right reasons. “For we are unworthy servants…”



THIRST, day 40

Scripture: For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:11-12)

Prayer: Loving Father, you give me everything I need. Help me to rest in your love, to rely on your grace. I worship you with all that I am, forgive me for the times

Reflection: Be careful where you place your confidence. If you are successful, influential, or popular—or long for these things—these are pit traps for your confidence, for they will falter when you need them most and leave your soul with a deep hunger.

Only the boundless love of God, his endless forgiveness, can satisfy our deepest thirst.

Know someone who would be encouraged by this post?
Send them a link!

a blog about the spiritual life and leadership

%d bloggers like this: