The Uselessness of Usefulness
and the
Usefulness of Uselessness

Comparing the world's premise of utilitarian productivity
to the Christian operative of derivative receptivity.

©1999 by James A. Fowler. All rights reserved.

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The Uselessness of Usefulness
and the
Usefulness of Uselessness

    We are part of Western society, which through the process of several millennia has tended to be very rationalistic and activistic. Americans, in particular, are known for their pragmatic philosophy, their "work ethic," and their utilitarian approach to productivity. Accepting the pragmatism of native philosopher, William James, Americans want to know how to "make it work," how to achieve their objectives, and how to produce the desired results. The "bottom-line" benefits of profitability are the accepted criteria for statistical success. The benefit and goodness of men's actions are determined by the usefulness of the consequences of such actions in bringing the greatest good and happiness to the greatest number of people in the society. The highest good is to be useful, profitable and constructive in our society. The worst sin is to fail to be useful for the humanistic objective that has been determined by consensus in our society.

    American religion has tended to adopt the same basic premises of such pragmatic and utilitarian philosophy en toto. Evidence their emphasis on achieving results evaluated by statistical success; their encouragement to involvement, service, usefulness in the accomplishment of their "agenda." Religion ends up using people and using God for what it has deemed useful.

    But God does not work according to such man-made premises! "Our ways are not His ways," declared the prophet, Isaiah (Isa. 55:8). God has predetermined His own objectives and purposes in accord with His own character.

    After much personal debate with three different philosophical counselors concerning the usefulness or uselessness of what was happening in his life, Job admitted to God, "I know that Thou canst do all things, and that no purpose of Thine can be thwarted" (Job 42:2). The apostle Paul agreed, for he wrote, "we know that God works all things together for good for those who love Him, and are called according to His purpose" (Rom. 8:29).

    Some would question or challenge the premise of God's ultimate rule or control, fearing some form of fatalism, or that such an emphasis on the sovereignty of God necessarily implies acceptance of an Augustinian or Calvinistic predeterminism. But how can we deny that God is the Creator, Sustainer and End for which all things exist? "From Him and through Him and to Him are all things" (Rom. 11:36). He is the source, the means and the objective of everything. His own Being is the basis of all of His activity and purposes. God does what He does, because He is who He is! His ultimate purpose has already been accomplished in Jesus Christ who "accomplished the work" He was given to do (John 17:4), exclaiming, "It is finished!" (John 19:30).

    Our human activity, what we do, does not affect who God is, what He does, or what He will accomplish. God's Being, activity and objective are not contingent upon man! We are not indispensable to God, and our activity (however useful we might deem it to be) is not indispensable to the Divine end! God is going to do what God is going to do, and we can either be "in on what God is up to," or we can stand outside of the Christic grace-flow, observe the process, and accept the consequences thereof. Our human actions will not change God's ultimate scheme of things or the over-all outcome.

    If this be the case, does it really matter what we do? Yes and No! Though our actions have no merit before God, there is an individual efficacy in the active choices that we make. It is not responsible on our part to revert to fatalism, nihilism or passivism. What, then, is the usefulness of what we do?1

A Survey of Man's Place Before God

    Beginning at the beginning of man's activity, we note that God created Adam and placed him within the perfect environment of the Edenic Garden. "Adam, Adam, how does your garden grow?" "It grows perfectly, of course, because God created it by His design, and sustains it by His power." Why, then, did God, having "planted a garden in Eden" (Gen. 2:8), ask man to "cultivate it and keep it" (Gen. 2:15)? Did God need man to enhance and enlarge the plants with "Miracle-Gro"? Did God need man to engineer the evolutionary process of breeding new species? Did God need man to cultivate the garden in order to maintain an ecological balance? Did God need man to keep the garden growing or to maintain the growth thereof? I don't think so! It seems like God's request for man to engage in these gardening chores was a call to engage in useless endeavors that were of no consequence to the outcome of the life and beauty of the garden, or of the purpose of man therein. Unless, of course, God in His infinite wisdom was aware that as man thus worked in the garden, he would realize that it was not he who kept the garden growing by his useless cultivation activities, but God who maintained it and caused it to serve His purpose by His sovereign sustaining power. Indeed, it is eternally useful to man to humbly recognize that "it is not what he does, but what God does" that is of ultimate consequence. Therein is the importance of recognizing the usefulness of uselessness.

    After the Fall, in His subsequent dealings with man, God gave laws and made commands, prescribing behavioral regulations and specific worship patterns for man to conform to. Why did God ask men to engage in these activities if they could never merit God's favor or earn salvation? Were they just useless exercises in futility, like mice in a maze, leading to the indictment that "Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law ...because they did not pursue it by faith, but as thought it were by works" (Rom. 9:31,32)? Unless, of course, God in His infinite wisdom knew that mankind needed to recognize their inability to generate the righteous character of God by their useless acts (cf. Isa. 64:6; Phil. 3:7-11), and be prepared and willing to accept the "one act of righteousness" (Rom. 5:18) by the "Righteous One" (Acts 3:14; 7:52; 22:14), whereby men could "become the righteousness of God in Him" (II Cor. 5:21). Thus, indeed, man could look back in retrospect and realize the usefulness of uselessness.

    The Fall of man in the Garden of Eden came by way of the "father of lies" (John 8:44) introducing the delusion of a contrary philosophical premise of the usefulness of usefulness. Man chose to determine his own objectives and goals of what was good and evil (useful and useless), and the methodological means of usefulness or uselessness by which those ends might be achieved. Though he was but a deceived and useless "slave of sin" (Rom. 6:17), man perceived himself to be the center, the god, of his own universe, competent to establish a grandiose agenda of what would be useful to himself and his environment, along with the useful activities that would allegedly accomplish those utopian dreams. "We must make a difference" is the humanistic credo, "and this will require the involvement of every person to be committed and dedicated to the work of productivity of that which will achieve success in our collective utilitarian goals." "It is useful that every person be useful in our quest to prove ourselves useful."

    With that in mind they set about to build the tower at Babel (Gen. 11:3,4), employing what they considered to be useful human activity for a self-determined useful religious end. Religious activities henceforth have perpetuated such uselessness under the mistaken guise of the usefulness of usefulness, often thinking that they can "accomplish great things for God."

    Throughout the history of human thought there have been many who have questioned the usefulness of all these humanistic and religious exercises of men. By natural reasoning alone they have arrived at a broad philosophical perspective that recognizes the uselessness of all this alleged human usefulness. Often labeled as pessimists, negativists, passivists, fatalists, and even atheists, they have nevertheless exposed the futility of man's repetitive endeavors of struggling and striving to be useful, by honestly asserting the uselessness of such usefulness.

    Some have admittedly taken their reservation and pessimism of man's potentiality to the extreme, claiming that all of man's existence and activity is meaningless and inconsequential. "Vanity of vanities! All is vanity" (Eccl. 1:2). Coming to the conclusion of the uselessness of uselessness, their nihilism and despair leads them to disturbing and dire actions. On an individual level such thinking has led many to conclude that life is useless; that they are useless; and that it is useless to keep on living and working in the context of such uselessness; whereupon they submit to and commit the self-destruction of suicide. Such might be a logical and legitimate conclusion if man does not discover and return to the proper relation of God and man in the recognition of the usefulness of uselessness through the activity of Jesus Christ. Most men, however, do not take such terminal suicidal action upon recognizing the "uselessness of usefulness" or the "uselessness of uselessness," instead choosing to opt out in other suicidal ways (alcohol, drugs, mental, emotional, social, etc.), or renewing their commitment to seek the "usefulness of usefulness" in yet another way, religion being one of those ways.

    The new covenant gospel of grace in Jesus Christ is an invitation to mankind to assume their intended place before God in the restoration of the "usefulness of uselessness." The creature-man is not a god unto himself who can determine and enact his own usefulness. The Creator-God created the creature-man in such a way that God's objectives of usefulness are only served when man derives all that he is and does from God. The primary function of God is activity in accord with His character. God does what He does, because He is who He is! God's intended function for man is receptivity that allows for God's activity to be expressed within His creation ­ a faith response to God's grace. When man fell into sin by opting for a bogus self-determined objective of usefulness, thought to be achieved through the fallacious means of self-generated useful activities, the "usefulness of usefulness," God was not taken by surprise. He already knew the remedial and restorative action He would take in His Son, Jesus Christ, the "lamb slain before the foundation of the world" (Eph. 1:4; Rev. 13:8).2

    The very enactment of God's redemptive action was a demonstration of the usefulness of uselessness. From the faithful availability and obedience (Phil. 2:8) that led to what appeared to be a useless act of the Son of Man dying on the execution instrument of a cross, God worked the useful end of redemption and restoration for mankind. Later, from the faithful availability and obedience of Christians that led to what appeared to be useless acts of Christian martyrdom, God worked the useful end of the advance of the gospel as they served as "witnesses" (Acts 1:8). And continually from the faithful availability and obedience of Christians in every age as they engage in what appear to be useless acts of love, compassion and encouragement, God works the useful ends of His purposes and glory.

    Someone is reported to have asked Mother Theresa in Calcutta, India, "Why do you pick up all these pitiful people? They only die anyway! Isn't it all rather useless?" Her response to the inquirer was, "God has not called me to be successful; only to be faithful. The results are up to God!" Such is the realization of the usefulness of uselessness!

The Parable of the Useless Servant

    That this is the heart of the gospel is obviated by Jesus' telling of the parable of the useless servant, as recorded in Luke 17:7-10:

"Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, 'Come immediately and sit down to eat'? But will he not say to him, 'Prepare something for me to eat, and clothe yourself and serve me until I have eaten and drunk; and afterward you will eat and drink'? He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, 'We are useless slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.'"

    Jesus sets up a mental scenario that is contrary to the customary practice of slavery as practiced in that day. Since all of His parabolic teaching was an expose and parody of the religionists of Palestine,3 His implication is that religion engages in just such illogical and uncustomary practices. It is most typical of religion to schedule award banquets for service rendered, wherein are uttered profuse proclamations of praise for the performance, productivity and piety of the servants. "How useful you are! How worthy! How indispensable to the success of our program and organization!" They tout the totals of their statistical success. They award pins and plaques, and construct memorials, for the commitment, dedication, achievement and contributions (especially monetary) of those who have served. The entire religious mind-set is that of the usefulness of usefulness.

    This is contrary to the whole servanthood concept, whether physical or spiritual. One who is a servant is an available vessel. He exists for the master's purposes. He is an expression of his master's desire. He serves the lord, and then is sustained.

    How incongruous that there should be a gratuitous gushing of gratitude for a servant having functioned as intended. No special favors are owed to the servant. He does not receive merit awards for having been useful and productive. He is not even praised for his availability and obedience. He simply gets his sustenance.

    The point of the parable is that on the spiritual plane within the kingdom of God, Christian servants are expected to spontaneously do what they are commanded to do. They "listen under" their Lord in obedience. Afterwards they do not expect time-off for an awards banquet to be praised for their productivity, their usefulness, or their indispensable value to God. The servant in Jesus' parable did not expect such. Rather, his self-declaration is, "We are useless slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done."

    The person making the utterance and the chronological timing of the utterance are both important for a proper perspective of the servant's evaluation:

    Note that it was not the master who declared the servant to be useless, unworthy or unprofitable (The Greek word is achreioi from the prefix a, meaning "no," and the word chraomai, meaning "to use" or "make use of."), as was the case of Philemon's and Paul's judgment on Onesimus (cf. Philemon 11). Neither is it God who declares us to be "useless servants," for if such were His perspective we should be cast into outer darkness (cf. Matt. 25:30). The verbalized perspective is that of the human servant who perceives that his activity is useless in reference to the whole of God's economy and activity. "What we are doing is not of ultimate worth or value. We are not indispensable to the work of God. We are not the important ones here, and our activity is not of ultimate significance."

    God can appreciate such a self-diagnosis of uselessness as being useful to His purposes, for such an attitude of lowliness and humility indicates that the servant is not seeking self-glorification, but desirous that all should be done to the glory of God. We are not "to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think" (Rom. 12:3), but have the attitude of humility that was in Christ Jesus (Phil. 2:4,5). Such a self-declaration of uselessness or worthlessness is not self-deprecation, self-devaluation or self-abnegation, Rather, it is the counter to the false sense of self-worth, self-value and self-image that is based on the supposed usefulness of what one has accomplished and what one has to show for it, which only creates low self-image by the fallacious premises of "I am what I do" or "I am what I have, and the subsequent comparison of results, achievements and accomplishments with those of others as they uselessly "compare themselves with themselves" (cf. II Cor. 10:12).

    Observe, also, that the servant's self-affirmation of uselessness was pronounced after he had engaged in his active responsibilities. If we adjudge our actions "useless" prior to engagement therein, we will either drag our feet in passivism or give up in the fatalism that declares "what will be, will be; que sera, sera." Only as we have "put our hand to the plow" (cf. Lk. 9:62) and look back on what we have done, do we have the proper perspective of our place before God as a dependent and derivative creature, desiring nothing else. So the personal perspective of uselessness should never serve as an preliminary excuse for inaction. The retrospective detachment and evaluation humbly admits, "I have just done what I have been asked to do. I deserve no credit or favor. My input and exertion were rather useless and insignificant. I was just available and receptive to the Lord's desire."

    For the Christian who is ontologically indwelt by the Being of the Lord, Jesus Christ, the parabolic analogy of the physical servant breaks down here. The Christian servant recognizes that the dynamic of the action was indeed the grace-activity of God, to which he was simply available and receptive in faith. Recognizing the uselessness of his own endeavors of self-effort and "works," the Christian servant can declare, "It is not what I have done, but what Christ has accomplished in me and through me." "I do not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me," declares the Apostle Paul (Rom. 15:18). "It's not what I have done, but what He has done. It's not me, but He! I can't; only He can!" Such an attitude of humility is indeed a useful awareness of our place before God, allowing for His continued use of His servant, and demonstrating the "usefulness of uselessness." In such a receptive relationship we can be assured of hearing the divine declaration, "Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of the Lord" (Matt. 25:21,23)!

The Useless/Useful Actions of Christians

    Various activities in which Christians engage can thus be evaluated concerning their uselessness or usefulness, or more correctly, concerning the usefulness of uselessness therein.

    Works. The Scriptures have many references to the "works" of Christians. Obviously, works are useless and unavailing of any merit for redemption or reconciliation with God. "By the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified" (Gal. 2:16). We are "saved, not as a result of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2:9). Religious utilitarianism, however, working on the premise of "the usefulness of usefulness," conceives of good works performed by Christians as most useful to the results-oriented objectives of their organizations and institutions. Much emphasis is placed upon the techniques and the "how-tos" for such work. Inculcation and motivational stimulation for such work is encouraged through biblical verses such as "Work out your own salvation" (Phil. 2:12), through familiar poetry which states that "God has no hands but our hands, to do His work today," and through songs about "Working for Jesus, ...striving to please Him in all that we do," or "Work for the day is coming, when God's work is through." Is not the uselessness of such usefulness evident, though, in the awareness that "God is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13), as the "same God works all things in all Christians" (I Cor. 12:6)? Yet, "what use is it, if a man says he has faith, but has no works?" (James 2:14), for "faith without works is useless" (James 2:20). Paul commands the Corinthian Christians to "be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that you toil is not in vain (not useless) in the Lord" (I Cor. 15:58).

    Service. Correlative with works is the idea of Christians as "servants of God" (as we have previously seen in Luke 17), who exist to serve God and serve one another. "It is the Lord Jesus Christ whom you serve" (Col. 3:24). "Serve one another" (Gal. 5:13). But much of so-called "Christian service" seems so self-serving as it serves the interests of ecclesiasticism. Is the uselessness of such not stated by Paul when He told the Athenians, "God is not served with human hands, as though He needed anything" (Acts 17:25)? Yet, that same Paul can tell the Ephesians that gifted church leaders exist "for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the Body of Christ" (Eph. 4:12).

    Church. Every Christian is part of that "Body of Christ, the Church" (Eph. 1:22,23; Col. 1:18,24). "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one Body" (I Cor. 12:13). Many sincere Christians, though, have come to regard the ecclesiastical activities that they observe, and are encouraged to participate in, as quite useless. The repetitive rituals, the appeals to participate in programs, the institutional politics, the church growth techniques employed to increase buildings, budgets and baptisms, all seem so fruitless and inane. Are God's purposes really served by entertaining and stimulating the church members, calling them to activism in social causes, or urging them to defend the faith? Did not Jesus say that "on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18)? Yet, all Christians are called upon to be functional participants in the Body of Christ (I Cor. 12:4-31).

    Preaching. "How will the church be built except by strong and forceful preaching and evangelism?" That is not what Paul said, but he did say, "How shall they hear without a preacher?" (Rom. 10:14). "Woe is me, if I preach not the gospel," he exclaimed (I Cor. 9:16), as he was called to "preach the gospel" (Acts 16:10) of the kingdom (Acts 20:25). But if we cannot save ourselves, much less anyone else, then what is the use of all this preaching? If the work of the Spirit in regeneration is like the blowing wind (John 3:8), and "no one can say, 'Jesus is Lord,' except by the Holy Spirit" (I Cor. 12:3), then is our preaching all that useful? Especially when much of contemporary preaching is but an attempt to persuade someone to change or alter their belief-system; nothing more than propaganda technique. Yet, Jesus commanded us to "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation" (Mk. 16:15), and Paul encouraged Timothy to "Preach the word" (II Tim. 4:2).

    Knowledge and Wisdom. Christians are encouraged to be "filled with the knowledge of His will" (Col. 1:9), and to have "the spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him" (Eph. 1:17). But enlightened with the empiricism of intellectualism, Christians have mistaken the knowledge of personal intimacy for the knowledge of rationalism. What useless bits and bytes of information their theological and philosophical discussions seem to be. With finite reasoning they attempt to get God figured out and crammed into their cranial cavities. Their arguments about the chronology of the Genesis creation or about the Revelation vision are equally as pointless. Paul indicated that if we had "all knowledge, but did not have love," it would be useless (I Cor. 13:2), for mere knowledge just makes us arrogant and proud (I Cor. 8:1). Yet, it is important to recognize "the true knowledge of God's mystery, that is Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col. 2:2,3), and to "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ" (II Pet. 3:18).

    Prayer. If there has been an activity over which Christians have struggled most concerning its usefulness or uselessness, it might be prayer. "The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much," writes James (5:16), but many Christians have questioned his assertion of the usefulness of prayer. If God is omniscient and knows what we need prior to and more perfectly than we do, then what is the use of informing Him in prayer? Who are we to tell Him what to do, or to attempt to be His counselor (Rom. 11:34)? Most of the prayers of Christians seem to be so self-serving as they seek to get something or beg some blessing from God. Indeed, "we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words" (Rom. 8:26). What, then, is the use of our prayers? Yet, we are to be "devoted to prayer" (Rom. 12:12; Col. 4:2), and to "pray without ceasing" (I Thess 5:17) or "losing heart" (Lk. 18:1).4

    Do these considerations of the activities of Christians leave us with a continued confusion concerning the usefulness or uselessness of such activities? Are we left with a paradoxical antinomy that is beyond the law of reason, or a dialectic tension that cannot be resolved? Though the ways of God are said to be "unfathomable" (Rom. 11:33), it is of utmost importance that we attempt to understand the differing premises between humanistic utilitarianism and Christian faithfulness.

Modi Operandi Ad Contrarium

    The purpose of this study is to consider the unique relation between God and man through Jesus Christ which accounts for and allows for the "new way" of Christian functionality. This concept is foreign to the natural understanding of human function, and totally opposite to the manner in which the secular world and religion operates. The modes of operation are contrary and antithetical one to the other (modi operandi ad contrarium).

    Paul explained to the Corinthians that the "natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised" (I Cor. 2:14). The "spiritual man," on the other hand, who has the Spirit of Christ indwelling his/her spirit, can appraise spiritual realities because the Spirit "searches all things, even the depths of God" (I Cor. 2:10), "that we might know the things freely given to us by God" (I Cor. 2:12). With that in mind, we seek to contrast the perspectives of human existence and human function, between the natural world and its natural religion, and the spiritual reality of Christianity.

    The natural world of mankind in their fallen spiritual state have determined that the usefulness of human usefulness must be directed toward the teleological end of human enhancement and human progress, i.e. man's glory. Man is the end of all things! The Christian perspective begins with the premise of God, by His Son Jesus Christ, being the beginning and the end of all things (Isa. 41:4; Rev. 22:13). Usefulness is then determined by accord with God's intent. The teleological end of human existence is regarded to be the glory of God. We were "created for His glory" (Isa. 43:7). And since God "does not give His glory to another" (Isa. 42:8; 48:11), He is only glorified when His All-glorious character is expressed within His created order.

    In order to achieve the natural objective of evolutionary human betterment the natural man must employ the means of natural and directly causal processes. The modus operandi is that of human understanding and exertion, whereby the expedient activity and pragmatic productivity of man might be the causal means to their utopian goal. By the utility of human activity they presume to progress toward a better world and an advanced collective society, "heaven on earth." The significance of the individual is but to serve as a temporary cog in the collective wheel of productivity. Uselessness is the failure to be useful and productive in their self-defined utilitarian means of activism. To revert to passivism is to accept the futility of giving up hope for man's achievement and advancement.

    The spiritual perspective of Christianity does not identify their modus operandi in the linear logic of causality by seeking a direct human means to the divine end. All attempts to understand and explain human usefulness as a beneficial means to an end, necessarily deny the relational, rather than causal, basis of God's economy. Rather than relying on natural human processes, the Christian recognizes the supernatural Person and activity of God, operative in man spiritually as the Spirit of Christ indwells the spirit of individual men (Rom. 8:9), and providing the dynamic of the divine Do-er in the activity of such Christian persons. Instead of human utility, Christianity relies upon divine ontology, the very Being of God functioning within His creature man. By His grace activity, which is always in accord with His character, through Jesus Christ (John 1:17), God is the dynamic for the fulfillment of His own end. Whereas the natural man operates by the causal expedience of human activity, the Christian operates by the character expression of divine activity. The active "doing" is not just an endeavor of beneficial means, but the "doing" that is expressive of the Being of God in man, allowing for godly character than can only be a result of God functioning in the behavior of man. In such a context Jesus explained to His disciples that "Apart from Me, you can do nothing" (John 15:5) that is of any spiritual or eternal consequence.

    Created with volitional response-ability toward the activity of God, the Christian can make a responsible choice of faith to be available to and to participate in the divine activity of God's grace. The choice of faith is the willingness of human receptivity to God's activity. Avoiding the extremes of the personal resolve of human determinism and the closed-end inevitability of divine predeterminism, Christianity recognizes the responsibility of the individual Christian to be receptive to God's grace in faith (cf. Eph. 2:8,9). Faithful obedience is simply the relational "listening under" the revelation of God in order to discern what He desires to be and do in each individual Christian. Failure to thus hear from God in order to be persuaded and convinced of how He desires to engage Himself in us, often leads to the frantic and frenetic activities of religious uselessness.

    The tragedy of the misnomer of "Christian religion" is that they have substituted a teleological objective of alleviating human needs, resolving social crises, converting human souls, and increasing their institutional membership and assets, in place of the glory of God. Perceiving God's grace as but an infused boost of empowering to enable man to act in accord with their objectives, faith then becomes an epistemological belief-system that provides the conviction and commitment to thus act. Such "self-made religion" (Col. 2:23), with its "works" theology, can only encourage increased involvement in its useless activities, continually teaching new techniques for such. Religion has merely adapted the naturalistic means of activism and utilitarianism for its own ends.

The Usefulness of Uselessness

    Repudiating the usefulness of both the end and the means of naturalistic humanism (despite their claims of "modernity"), Christians must refocus upon God in Christ. Freely and spontaneously they can participate in the dynamic of God's grace as the "life of Jesus is manifested in their mortal bodies" (II Cor. 4:10,11). In so doing they experience the freedom to be man as God intended man to be, and the expectant hope of the eternality of such a relationship. But, to the extent that their objective is to get humanly quantifiable results for what are considered useful human and religious endeavors, they are necessarily enslaved to the utilitarian process, and miss the grace of God. In fact, to the extent to which Christians attempt to debate or evaluate the usefulness of their actions, they only verify the uselessness of such endeavors. The usefulness of what we do can only be evaluated by God. We must leave the results to Him! To accept that is to participate in the usefulness of the endeavors, while at the same time recognizing our uselessness and dispensability. God does not need us to do what He does!

    In humility we recognize that we are derivative men, dependent upon God. We are "at His disposal;" available and dispensable. It is not what we do, but what God does that is of value, worth, significance, and usefulness. We are not co-operators in Christian activity, wherein God does His half, and we do our half, qualifying us to be half useful and half useless. No, it is only what God does that is of any useful consequence.

    Is it not patently and blatantly obvious that the Christian perspective of human activity is a radically different understanding of why we do what we do, and how we do what we do? It provides a meaningful raison d'etre that reveals a useful significance of uselessness in the eternal scheme of God's relations with men. Such can only be known and appreciated by those who are participants in the intimacy of such a spiritual relationship, however. Attempting to explain such spiritual reality in the human language of physical, space/time, causal logic requires figurative and pictorial analogies (like the parable of the useless servant), and makes one feel like he is trying to explain the inexplicable. The "usefulness of uselessness" must be spiritually appraised. "He who has ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit is saying" (Rev. 2,3).


1    The conceptualization of this study, along with its basic themes and substructures, was first suggested to my thinking by the writing of Jacques Ellul, The Politics of God and the Politics of Man. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. 1972. Final chapter entitled, "Meditation on Inutility," pgs. 190-199.
2    Fuller explanation of the fall and restoration of man can be found in Man...As God Intended by James A. Fowler. Fallbrook: C.I.Y. Publishing. 1994.
3    This premise is further expanded in Jesus Confronts Religion: A Study of the Four Gospels in Harmony by James A. Fowler. Fallbrook: C.I.Y. Publishing. 1995.
4    For further consideration of the topic of prayer, cf.
      Fowler, James A., Christocentric Prayer. Fallbrook: C.I.Y. Publishing. 1994.
      Ellul, Jacques, Prayer and the Modern Man. New York: Seabury Press. 1970.