Wednesday, January 1, 2014

God Is Always Better

You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world (Ephesians 5:5 NLT).
But godliness is actually a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment (I Timothy 6:6 NASB).

         We always have a G(g)od in our lives.  Either the one true God or anything else we value above Him.  In this Christmas season we have been bombarded by Madison Avenue telling us that we need to have every sort of material possession and that we can obtain them with minimal cost.  In the light of this reality it might behoove us to think about what Paul told the Church in Ephesus about greed.

Godliness with Contentment
         To understand greed it is necessary to comprehend the meaning of covetousness.  Covetousness is desiring something so much that we lose our contentment in God.  Greed is covetousness’ ugly stepchild.  Greed is a lust that by definition can never be fulfilled.  The more you get the more you have to have.  Once a very wealthy man was asked how much is enough?  His retort was very telling.  He said, “just one more dollar than I have.”  There is no rest for the greedy.  Just as there is no peace for a lustful pursuit in relation to sexual pleasures, power, success, etc..  This is why Paul told his disciple Timothy, But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment (I Timothy 6:6 NASB).  Contentment is the opposite of covetousness.  Covetousness says that God is not enough and we need to seek our fulfillment elsewhere.  Let’s call it what it is, it is spiritual adultery.  If we seek our greedy desires, we have to reject what Jesus said, ... “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.”

         Paul stated in our original scripture that a greedy person is an idolater. Jesus made it clear. Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry (Colossians 3:5 NKJV).   The 10 Commandments begins and ends with almost the same thought.  “You shall have no other gods before Me (Ex 20:3) and You shall not covet....... (Ex 20:17). Greed is the evidence of a divided heart, one in which the “things of this world” have a stronger hold on us than our God would desire. 
         I am not saying that things are wrong, God created them for our good pleasure.  It’s the priority they take that is the problem.  As noted author Tim Keller has said, “ its when we make good things ultimate things.”  There is room for only one God in our hearts. There is the capacity in our heart for many loves, but only after the one true God reigns supreme in it. Anything that challenges his supremacy and lordship is a vain idol, which God in his mercy must allow to die. Why? Because he knows such idols will never fulfill those who worship them.  If we pursue greed we are involved in vain worship.  We are bowing our knee at the cultural altar of materialism.

God’s Gifts Are Always Best
         As Christians we should teach our children about contentment and gratitude in relation to what God has given to us.  Our young people are growing up in an entitlement society which can lead to discontent and disillusionment.  When I worked as a missionary in Hawaii I met a mother who taught her son the value of being grateful and content.
         Her son really wanted a skateboard.  She was a single mom with three children.  Her son Eric wanted the same things that other eight-year-olds had.  But she (the mom) had a limited income and could not afford to provide all of those things for Eric.  Skate boards were in vogue and most youngsters had one.  Eric didn’t and would often talk about getting a new Hobie skateboard. Hobie was sort of top of the line. One day they were returning from church in the back seat of another family’s station wagon.  Eric spied a skateboard in the rear compartment of the wagon.  The father of the family must have noticed Eric’s interest in the skateboard and asked him if he wanted it.  It was an old board and his son had gotten a new one.  Wow, it wasn’t a Hobie but it was a skateboard thought Eric.
         Eric was stoked as he could hardly wait to get home to try it out.  The family lived on a hill and Eric went to the top and shoved off and was weaving down the hill with his hair blowing in the wind and a smile on his face.  Upon one weave he hit the curb and he was bumped off and the board continued down the hill.  Eric took off after it, but before he could retrieve it, he watched it go into a drain sewer and disappeared.  Eric couldn’t believe it.  He tried to reach into the drain, but with no success.
         Eric ran back home with tears in his eyes.  He related the episode to his mom.  He concluded by saying, “how could God give me a skateboard and then take it away like this?  It is not fair, Mom.”  She, though not showing it, probably emotionally felt the same way.  But she counseled him the same way she always had.  She told him we don’t always understand why God does what He does.  Sometimes He gives and at others times He takes away.  We must be thankful when God gives and when He doesn’t.  He tried to understand what his mother was saying and in the best way an eight-year-old could, accepted his mom’s instruction.  They commit it to the Lord in prayer.
         His mom called the city office to see if a utility worker would come and try to retrieve it.  The worker arrived with ladder and removed the man-hole cover and climbed down into the sewer to look for the skateboard.  A few minutes later he surfaced with the skateboard to the relief of Eric and his mom.  But interestingly the worker went back down again and returned with something in his hands.  It was a virtually brand new Hobie skateboard. Now Eric couldn’t believe his eyes.  The worker told them that no one had called about the board and until they did, they may as well take it.  No one ever claimed it and Eric had his Hobie skateboard from God.
         When we put things ahead of our relationship with God, we always end up with second best.