There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death. (Proverbs 14:12)
I once heard a well-known pastor speak to a group of people who were, for the most part, unbelievers. While addressing the subject of our Life’s Purpose, he said, “If you want to know what you ought to be doing with your life, you need to look at your shape. What am I wired to do?” He later added, “Did you know that God smiles when you be you?” And at the end of his message he said, “My advice to you is to look at what’s in your hand: your identity, your influence, your income, and say, ‘It’s not about me. It’s about making the world a better place.’ ” On the surface, this sounds like good advice; however, it’s not biblical.
We shouldn’t be looking at our shape (talents), to see what we ought to be doing with our lives. We should look to Christ’s example instead. After all, the Bible instructs us to “walk as He walked” (1 John 2:6). Thus, it is our purpose to be conformed to His image (see Romans 8:29; 12:2). To look to our talents for purpose is to rely on our own understanding. The Bible discourages us from doing that: “Trust in Yahweh with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding. Acknowledge Him, in everything you set out to do, and He will guide your steps. Do not be wise in your own eyes, but fear Yahweh, and depart from evil” (Proverbs 3:5-7). Hence, our talents don’t define our purpose; God does.
Moreover, just because people are using their talents, that doesn’t mean they’re doing something that’s pleasing to God. There are many talented people in this world, but most of them use their talents in order to gain fame and fortune, being self-centered. No doubt, these people are being who they are, but they’re not reflecting the kind of attitude God wants to see in them. Therefore, to say God smiles at them is to say something that’s contrary to the truth.
God didn’t wire anyone to be worldly-minded; He created us to glorify Him, and to enjoy His presence (see Isaiah 43:7). If we aren’t doing that, we aren’t doing what we were created for. He doesn’t smile when you be you; He smiles when you renounce all self-centered aspirations and exercise faith in Him. The Bible says, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe He exists and is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). If we aren’t walking by faith in this way, then we aren’t giving our Heavenly Father anything to smile about.
“Above all things, the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Life without Christ is death in denial. God doesn’t smile at the sight of unbelievers perishing (see 1 Cor. 1:18; 2Cor. 2:15, 4:3). Yet, these people smile, because they don’t see that they’re on a path which leads to destruction; their worldly pleasures keep them from receiving the truth. A life of virtue is what makes God smile.
Finally, it’s not about making the world a better place, but about honoring our Father in heaven through good works. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God has prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).
This pastor had a golden opportunity to preach Christ, but he chose to take the self-help approach instead, leaving a group of unbelievers with the impression that they were good, simply because they were being who they are. Sadly, these people are dying in their sins, because they don’t know Jesus. The pastor should have warned them of this, but he played it safe. What do you think Jesus would have said to these people? He likely would have said, “Repent! For the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matthew 4:17). If Jesus was at the center of that pastor’s thoughts when he spoke to those people, he likely would have said the same.