The Danger of Getting What We Want

We often choose earthly treasures that we can’t keep over eternal treasures that we can’t lose.

Tim Keller paraphrased and quoted a columnist back in the 1980’s who knew quite a few celebrities personally. According to Keller, the columnist said:

“I knew them when they were working behind the counter the cosmetic counter at Macy’s, and I knew them when they were bouncers at the village clubs, and all that, and then they became famous, and they became movie stars, and then they became more unhappy then they were before.

“That giant thing they were striving for, that ‘fame thing’ that was going to make everything OK, that was going to make their lives bearable, that was going to provide them personal fulfillment and with ‘ha ha happiness’, it had happened and nothing changed. They were still them. The disillusionment turned them howling and insufferable.

“If God really wants to play a rotten practical joke on us, He grants your deepest wish and then giggles merrily as you suddenly realize you want to kill yourself.”

This is quite the candid, though skeptical, observation. It’s as if the columnist wanted the celebrities to find a slice of heaven in their stars because that would mean the same heaven was possible for the columnist.

But, alas, no. It is a cruel joke. The thing we want to be our nirvana turns out to lack the substance we want it to have. If the celebrities that everyone yearns to be have been “there” and found it wanting, what hope is there for the rest of us?!

What, then is the answer? We yearn for Eden, but the things we desperately believe will take us there leave us disappointed and wanting. We believe in the pursuit of happiness, but the happiness we seek alludes us – even as we reach to close our hands around it.

The columnist impliedly blamed God for the joke, but Scripture tells us the human condition is no joke. The real problem with the human condition is that God made us for Himself. Thus, nothing else will satisfy us.

The desire for more is the thing that causes us to seek, but what we really seek is Him. When we follow after other things, instead of Him, we find them empty. Thus, when we turn to God and find that He is our fulfillment, we know that we have found what we were looking for.

I write this on the heels of an article in which I reflected on celebrity Christianity. More accurately, celebrities who have recently become Christians. In the article, I also reflected on “celebrity” Christians, people who were thrust into the Christian limelight at an early age, before a firm foundation of spiritual growth and relationship with God was established.

And I wonder how those celebrities turning to Christianity will fair in the future. They are used to the warm (and sometimes harsh) light of public celebrity. That is where they live, but what they need is the nutrient rich soil of God’s word, prayer, relationship to God, fellowship and all the things God must do in us in the dark recesses of our hearts, well out of the light of public life.

Like the rich young ruler who was searching, but found it too difficult to leave behind all his wealth to which he had become accustomed, celebrity, fame, and fortune may be difficult to give up. Even though it doesn’t satisfy the deepest longings of the soul, it is still everything most people think we want, and we can be stubborn in seeking what we want.

Riches, and celebrity, and comfort, and recognition become a trap. We are lured in. Our own desires propel us hard in the direction of the sunlight. We strain our whole lives with all our effort. All our thoughts, hopes, and dreams carry us along, and the things we gain along the way, even if they turn to dust in our hands, are difficult to give up…. If it was all we wanted.

Continue reading “The Danger of Getting What We Want”

Here Today and Gone Tomorrow

What gain is there to the person who toils for the wind?

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.” (1 John 2:15‭-‬16 ESV)

This was “the verse of the day” today, and it’s a timely one. It’s easy to get caught up in this world, what is happening day to day and thinking about the future… in this life… and forget about or gloss over the importance of the kingdom of God.

Jesus came preaching the kingdom of God. Jesus came looking for followers. He challenged people to leave behind the things that anchored them to this world. To the rich young ruler, he said, “Give everything to the poor and come follow me.” When Jesus invited Peter and his brother Andrew, “Come follow me,” they left their nets to follow him.

But, it isn’t just about leaving things behind. The reason John urges us not to love the world is that “the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:17) Paul said the same thing to the Corinthians: “[T]his world in its present form is passing away.” (1 Corinthians 7:31) Why would we want to hold onto it?

Continue reading “Here Today and Gone Tomorrow”

Money in God’s Economy


One pretends to be rich[1], yet has nothing; while another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth[2]. Proverbs 13:7

In God’s economy, things are often upside down and inside out, at least from our perspective, because we tend to value things differently than God does. Take money for instance. God says, “The love of money is a root of all sorts of evil.” (1 Tim. 6:10) This verse, along with the passage about the rich young ruler, cause most of us to pause and consider how different from our ways God’s ways are.

Money is not intrinsically bad. Money, by itself is neither bad nor good. The “love of money”, not money itself, is a root of evil. It is not the money, but how we treat it that is the problem. The “love” comes from us, not from money, itself. “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts….” (Mark 7:21)

The fact is that money has no intrinsic value at all. Dollar bills are just pieces of paper. Coins are just inorganic substance. A rock might as well be just as valuable as a dollar bill. So, if money has no intrinsic value, we (people) are the ones who ascribe value to money.

The value of money comes from the value we ascribe to it. Some rocks we value highly, and other rocks we value hardly at all. Diamonds, rubies and precious gems we covet, but pebbles lying at our feet are not worth bending over to pick up.

In God’s economy, however, value is ascribed much differently than the values projected by people in the human marketplace. Because God is who is, the Creator of the Universe, God and what God values are the only things with intrinsic value. The values that people have given things are, ultimately, worthless in God’s economy unless God, Himself, gives them value.

We are God’s crowning creation. God made us, and not we ourselves. (Ps. 100:3) God values people who were made in His image above all things.

It should be no surprise, then that value in the economy of God is ranked according to the greatest commandment (to love God above all things) and to the second greatest commandment (to love our neighbors as ourselves). If we are going to be rich in God’s economy, we should value what God values.

While God may value us most highly, our greatest value must be in God Himself.

When we value money before God and other people, we are deviating from God’s what God values ans accepting something less. Money does, obviously, have value, but the value lies not in the money, itself. The value is imparted by us, by society, and the value is in what money can gain for us. Since money, unlike God and people, has no intrinsic value, it should be subordinated to those things that do have intrinsic value.

Money is not evil in itself. Evil is what flows out of the hearts of people. The value we ascribe to money can be at the heart of all kinds of evil that flow out of our hearts, but money is not the culprit – we are the culprits.

As always, throughout Scripture, the real issue lies with us. Our treasure is where are hearts are. If we do not value God above all things and love other people only second to our love for God, we have the world upside down and inside out.

God’s economy provides freedom from the pressures and the stress of being tied to worldly, fleshy fortunes. When we value what God values, we are free to live as God intends us to live. When we value what God values, we put our treasures up in heaven where the value will not rust, rot, fade or diminish.

The ransom of a man’s life is his wealth, but a poor man hears no threat. Proverbs 13:8

Money, in God’s economy, has no intrinsic value, but it may be valuable to the extent that it can be used to the benefit of what God values.

[1] The action, “pretends to be rich,” is expressed with the hithpael verb stem.  It conveys a sense of acting on one’s self. The fundamental (“inside”) meaning of hithpael adds an inner layer of meaning beyond the literal sense of the verb – stressing the self-benefit (motivation) driving the subject to act.  This personal benefit is understood from the context (not the form itself) and metaphorically roots to the spiritual or psychological element moving the person to act.

[2] This term, 1952/hôn, implies freedom from pressures of life because enjoying surplus (accumulation).

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I spent a couple of hours today handing out candy for donations for the local Lion’s Club. It was a glorious fall day. I got a little exercise; and I raised some money for a good cause. The Lion’s Club provides hearing aids and glasses for those who cannot afford them and gives to local causes.

I am a multi-tasker, so every time I walked the line of cars before the light turned green, I picked up bits of litter on the way back. It did not take long to clear my little section of the world of litter, so I began to observe and think about the people who gave and the people who did not. Continue reading “Generosity”

Putting the Anger of God in Perspective: Part 2

Sun in the Clouds

Speaking of God’s anger, we experience things that we perceive to be God’s wrath, but they are not. When tragedy strikes – a natural disaster, a terrible accident, cancer – we feel that God is being angry or cruel.

We wonder how He could do those things to people … especially if it affects us!

In reality, God has created a neutral universe in which things happen, good and bad. From our perspective it seems personal, but it’s just the way God made the universe.

It is also the perfect soil in the exercise of free will is given its space to operate. As a general rule, the universe is a neutral ground where favorable and unfavorable things happen all the time (the rain falls on both the righteous and the unrighteous). The important thing is our reaction to those things.

We see the world from a finite, limited perspective. In fact, we tend to think or act as if this world is all there is. Just as the universe had a beginning, it will have an ending. The end of each of us will surely come before the world ends, but end it will – at least in its present form. When life as we know it is stripped away, and the universe as we know it comes to an end, there will remain only eternity with God or eternity without God.

We tend to feel that the bad things that happen to us in our lives are expressions of God’s anger toward us, but it isn’t..

In fact, God’s wrath is not yet revealed. The wrath of God is coming. Colossians 3:6 The day of judgment is still to come (2 Peter 2:9), and, we are told that day will “come like a thief in the night.” 1 Thessalonians 5:2

If we are in opposition to God, with stubborn and unrepentant hearts, God’s wrath is stored up for us “for the day of God’s wrath,” (Romans 2:5) but, that day has not yet come.

In the meantime, we experience God’s forbearance, patience and kindness, allowing us time to turn around and align with Him. Romans 2:4 As the writer of Hebrews exhorted, if you hear His voice today, do not harden your hearts! (Hebrews 3:15 quoting Psalm 95:7) There is still time to change.

The world we live in is the soil in which we grow toward the life that is yet to come. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” John 18:36

Indeed, none of us get out of this world alive. We have the opportunity, while we still live, to plant ourselves in God’s soil, to die to ourselves and to live for God.

The ways we respond to the happenings in our lives guides our growth in the soil of this world. We are either growing toward Him or away from Him. The end of our days is not this world, but the next. Jesus told us that we should not be storing up treasures on earth where things rot and rust; we should store our treasures up in heaven.

Peter reminds us that we look forward to a new heavens and a new earth. 2 Peter 3:13 He exhorts us,

“So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.” 2 Peter 3:14-15

The Lord’s patience means salvation. 2 Peter 3:16 Bad experiences remind us we are not immortal, that there is an end to this life, that we should be considering where our treasures are.