Thursday, September 08, 2005

What is Important?

The Bible is the story of our creation and evolution, in relationship with God. Unlike the science of evolution, which explores our physical development, the Bible explores our spiritual development. If the Bible is considered the word of God and thus tells us what is most important to God, then by our very way of living, we are ignoring its fundamental message.

The Bible does not discuss the kind of jobs we should pursue, it doesn't venerate busy-ness as a state to worship, it doesn't advocate keeping up with the Joneses, it doesn't suggest that material things will make us happy. Instead it talks about relationships, primarily ours with God. Relationships are the most important aspect of life to God. Jesus gave two great commandments: the first is about how we relate to God, because only by learning to relate to God as He wants us to, can we obey the second commandment, which is how we relate to our fellow human beings. Just as we relate to God, we relate to our fellow humans. There's nothing in the Bible about making life decisions according to financial and work considerations -- a way condoned and praised by our society -- instead of considerations about our relationships to people and to God. In fact the opposite.
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?" Matthew 6:25-26 (my emphasis)
We give ourselves value through the jobs we pursue. Parents praise children who become doctors and lawyers, for they are working in areas regarded highly by society, earn well, and reflect glory onto those who raised them. Those who pursue these professions because of their own internal passion are following God's design. But many pursue them for the money and prestige and to be liked by their parents.

The birds don't have any such worries. The author points out that they do not "contribute to society" yet God loves them enough to feed them. To drive home his point, he repeats this thought:
"Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you -- you of little faith?" Matthew 6:28-30 (my emphasis)
The lilies contribute nothing, in the way we regard contribution, yet God loves them so much that he takes care of their needs better than Solomon who He blessed beyond anyone's wildest dream. The lilies and the birds have more faith than we do, yet God still provides for us.

We strive to earn ever more, to purchase greater things, because we believe these things will make us happy and because we worry about being without in the future if we do not keep our noses to the grindstone in the present. But Jesus exposes the spiritual futility of this quest:
"Therefore do not worry, saying "What will we eat?' or 'What will be drink?' or 'What will we wear?' For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things...So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today's trouble is enough for today." Matthew 6:31-32 (my emphasis)
And as James points out, you have no idea what trouble tomorrow will bring, so you cannot be prepared except by having a firm faith footing:
"Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.' Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.' As it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such arrogance is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin." James 4:13-17 (my emphasis)
This passage echoes Jesus' Parable of the Rich Fool whose land produced abundantly and who decided to tear down his barns to make bigger ones to hold all the grain. The Fool crowed to himself that he had laid up ample goods and he could now relax. "But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared whose will they be?'" The fool was rich to himself, or so he thought, and not rich to God. He had laid up goods that in the end others would enjoy, but not a treasured relationship for himself to enjoy both in life and in death. "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (See Luke 12:13-34.) If our treasure is in the accumulation of wealth and security (as we perceive it) and reputation and accolades in our chosen profession, then that's where our hearts will be -- not with God, not with the people around us. But when we strive towards God and His kingdom, not only will we be fed and clothed, but we will also have a home in God's kingdom (which exists both in heaven and earth) and here on earth with the people who love us.

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2 comments:

B said...

Very nicely played out.
I like your perspective.

talk talk talk said...

Thank you!