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 in a recent sermon he gave. The columnist knew a number of celebrities personally. Keller paraphrased the columnist: “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.”

Keller paraphrased further: “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.”

Keller then quoted the columnist, who said, “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.”

God made us for Himself.

Of course, the idea of God “giggling merrily” is obviously not biblical, but the rest of it is. God made us for Himself. He weeps at our choosing to follow after the things we want instead of Him. He weeps for us because it can never fulfill us.

I write this on the heels of my last 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.

And I wonder how those celebrities turning to Christianity will fair into 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 difficult to give up. Even though it doesn’t satisfy the deepest longings of the soul, it is still (likely) everything they thought they wanted.

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 of our effort. All of our thoughts, hopes and dreams carry us along, and the things we gain along the way, even if they turn sour 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

canstockphoto10984788


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).


TheDiscoveryBible Logo

I use The Discovery Bible to gain a deeper, richer and more complete understanding of the Scripture. If you want ready understanding of the original Greek, the original word emphasis and Greek tenses that do not exist in English, definitions of Greek words and more to make your reading of the New Testament deeper and richer, check out The Discovery Bible. The Discovery Bible opens up knowledge of the original New Testament text in Greek to you in your everyday Bible reading. It shows the words emphasized in the Greek text, the tenses and the meanings that do not always translate well into English or English sentence structure. If you are ready to dig deeper in your Bible reading, try a free 30-day trial download of The Discovery Bible.


 

Generosity

lightstock_94875_xsmall_user_7997290


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 CloudsSpeaking 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 me!

In reality, God has created a neutral universe in which things happen, good and bad, from our perspective. It is the perfect soil for the exercise of free will. 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), and 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. 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. 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! 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 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.