I was reading Rush Limbaugh’s website today, under the transcript portion titled The Ignorant Can Make a Difference, where a woman called in to say that rather than take her children out of California public schools she was leaving them in and hoped that they — and she — might make a difference. She had just been voted president of the PTA and was considering running for office, etc. Then she encouraged other parents to seek to make a difference also.
After the call, Rush said he found the phrase she’d used — wanting to “make a difference — to be a minor irritation, for it was one people use constantly these days. He recalled his recent experience judging the Miss America contest and thus interviewing many of the young women:
You wouldn’t believe the interviews the number of contestants who came up and said, “I want to make a difference,” and I’m sitting there thinking, “Well, Hitler made a difference.” You know, what is this “I want to make a difference” business? It’s become a cliché. What it means is, “I want to help people, I want to improve things,” which I totally understand. But it’s also become a way of saying something about yourself when you don’t say anything.”
Later one of his friends emailed him that “I want to make a difference” really means, “I want to matter. I want to matter.”
And that struck me. Because I think that is indeed what it means. The environmentalist group snags people with this lure — join our cause, save the planet, make a difference! I see it in the seemingly weekly running events around Tucson, where people tie their hobbies to some charity, thereby making their run that day “matter.” They are making a difference. At least in their minds. There are even cards for kids drives so people can make greeting cards and send a gazillion of them to ailing children and their families, thereby cheering them and making a difference. It gives them purpose. They feel like they matter. At least in their own eyes and possibly in the eyes of the world.
It’s a reasonable goal. We all want to matter. We all want purpose and direction in life. But to me it has become empty. “I want to make a difference” seems to be the watchword of young people starting out today…
I’ve heard Christians use the same phrase. Writers hope the books they write will “make a difference in the lives of those who read them.” Publishers often express the same hope. Others want to transform a city, make a difference in a community by transforming it. It sounds good, but is it? Is the Christian life really about us making a difference?
Yes. And no.
And do we “matter” because of what we do for others? And if we do, then doesn’t that make our motivation for doing for them rather self-absorbed? I’m doing this because I want to matter…
Except… for the Christians anyway… we already do matter. We matter enough to God that He’d send His son to die for us so we can be with Him for ever. We matter enough to His Son, that He’d agree to do it. And when we believe in the work His son has done on our behalf, God gives us His very own righteousness, puts us in union with His son, seated at His right hand and comes to indwell our very bodies. We, in the church age, are royalty. The very Trinity indwells each of us.
So how can we say we want to matter? We already do matter, tremendously. I submit that desire is not from the Spirit but from the flesh. It’s the flesh that wants to matter. It’s the flesh that wants to be recognized, appreciated, thanked for “making a difference.” To feel significant and worthwhile. And often the only way to do that is by achievement or receiving the approbation of others.
But the plan of God is not about us, not about our works, us making a difference. It’s Christ who makes the difference. It’s God’s word that makes the difference. It’s His plan that matters. Our task is to recognize what we already are — precious in His sight. Rich and powerful beyond belief. We have only to believe it, and to claim — and live in — the wealth and power we already possess.