“Look, Daddy, I made cookies for you!” the little girl in the Family Circus cartoon exclaims as she proudly shows him her pan. He reaches over and picks one up. “Ummm, it’s good!” he smiles approvingly as he bites into it. “You sure know how to make good cookies!” She beams, delighted to have done something for her father.
But behind the daughter stands her mom, covered by flour, wiping her brow. Mom gave her the idea. Mom found the recipe. Mom showed her where the ingredients were. Mom told her how much of each to take. Mom opened the bottle of oil. Mom helped her set the oven. Mom showed her how to put the cookies on the pan. Mom made sure she wasn’t burned on the oven door as she slid them in to cook. Mom set the timer, and Mom helped her remember to pull them out. Still the little girl says, “Look, Daddy! I made cookies for you!”
“Look, God, I’ve done a fine thing for you!” we sometimes say when we’ve given a great offering or done a kind deed. We are pleased, and certainly, God receives our heartfelt offerings with joy.
But let’s be careful what we claim for ourselves. For behind our accomplishment stands God. God set the density of matter in the universe just right to avoid gravitational collapse. God made laws of physics just right so that random protons were susceptible to nuclear fusion. God made a cloud of gas coalesce into earth just the right distance from 330 million billion cubic miles of such fusing protons. God used the nuclear fusion of these protons to make carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen atoms capable of structuring a molecule that could maintain a life-giving code. God enabled these molecules to reproduce and multiply after their kind. God made skin and tissue and bone. God made brain cells flash just the right amount of electrical current down nervous ganglia in such a way that muscles would respond predictably. God inspired kindly thoughts in the mind of his miracle child so that it occurred to us to do the fine thing we have done. God used the fruits of his photosynthesis reaction to fire the chemical engine in our body that gave us the strength to do it. Then, finally, like the little Family Circus girl, we offer our gift and proudly say, “Look, God, what I did for you!”
In Second Corinthians 3:5 St. Paul writes, “Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God.” Let us be careful what we attribute to ourselves. We are God’s handiwork, and God stands behind our smallest acts of kindness. Let our every thought and movement rather praise the Lord.
Mark Nygard is the pastor of the Dakota Lutheran Prairie Parish that covers Bowman and Rhame.