Manufactured Righteousness

I awoke with a start, my heart racing. Where was this quality problem going to end? What was going to be the final cost? $100,000? $1,000,000? $10,000,000? My mind was in overdrive. How could this have happened?  

It was the summer of 2009. Two weeks before, my company had received notice that some metal components we had manufactured were faulty. Those components, assembled inside thousands of golf carts, were now in service at golf courses around the country, and they were wearing out prematurely. The customer not only wanted the parts replaced, he wanted our company to pay for the thousands of labor hours necessary to tear down each machine, access the component, replace it, and reassemble. If we didn’t sign up to cover the cost, the customer said he would see us in court.

I was responsible. I knew it! I had tried to grow this company too fast. I had hired the wrong people. I had been greedy in not spending enough money on quality control. Now the company was in jeopardy, along with the livelihood of 100 FMS employees, including me!

It was now 3:30 AM. No getting back to sleep tonight. Better get into the office. Got to work harder. Got to get better and be better next time. This can never happen again! I WILL not let it happen again! That’s how I spent the next several weeks as it became more and more apparent that I was helpless to protect my company’s future. The Lord would have to provide, somehow.

What is righteousness? I like to call it ‘good-enough-ness.’ It’s that feeling inside of me that if I work hard enough, if I raise my kids correctly, if I serve my wife sacrificially, if run my business prudently, and on and on, then there is a better chance that my Creator, my Heavenly Father, will accept me. Without realizing it, over many years I had come to believe that running my business successfully was gaining me favor with a Holy God. My business had become my righteousness. Now that this business was in peril, so was my righteousness.

In reality, however, I have nothing to offer a Holy God: not a strong work ethic, not well-behaved kids, not a great marriage, not a well-run business. Our Heavenly Father’s standard for acceptance is perfection, and I have missed that mark every day of my life. No, the hard work and well-run business which I thought gave me merit with God was actually a gift of grace from a God who loves me just because He loves me. And out of His love for me, in the summer of 2009, my Father began revealing to me how I had attributed this gift to my own work.

The Apostle Paul told the Galatians: “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose” (Galatians 2:21). There was only one person in history who merited the favor of a perfectly Holy God by performing work with perfection. That person is our one and only Savior, Jesus. Now you and I can enjoy our work for what it is—a blessing to be experienced in this life, not our merit to enter the next.