Sunday, February 25, 2007

On the Bane of Blessing, and Wartime

“Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God . . .” 2 Timothy 6:17

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all I have commanded you. . . ” Matthew 28:19-20

Over the last few years I’ve become profoundly aware of the great material blessings I possess; not simply in comparison with the other peoples of my time, but in comparison to the whole sweep of human history. Just think of it—we in 21st century America possess creature comforts simply undreamed of throughout the vast majority of human history: indoor plumbing, refrigeration, a furnace, electricity, air conditioning (in my car!), vaccines, beds that don’t have bugs, dentists, glasses/contacts—the list could go on. No other culture—either past or present—enjoys the same level of physical prosperity that we possess. The reality is stunning. Even the modest among us have creature comforts that far exceed history’s greatest emperors and kings. We live in a wonderland.

But it has also struck me just how precarious a position our privileged souls are in. Physical prosperity is both a blessing and a bane. The blessings of it are obvious; the bane more insidious. Our material comforts make it so easy for us to forget that we live in wartime—that a battle is raging for the soul of the earth. God forgive us that we should sit out the battle like Hobbits in the Shire (to steal a Tolkien analogy), lost in a vain obsession with our creature comforts while the great spiritual battles of our time rage on. God forgive us that we would allow our preoccupation with the American dream to distract us from the mission that has been set before us—the mission of making disciples of all the nations. Our fleeting moments on this earth represent our one great chance to throw ourselves into an eternal cause. This chance will not come again.

Eternity will look back upon our time—upon our age—and judge us in relation to our participation in the great mission of Christ. Will heaven sing songs of our victory and conquest? Of how we threw off the chains of ease, picked up our swords and gave our sweat and blood for the cause of Christ? Or will they sing songs of lament for how we slept through the war, drunk on the things of this world, preoccupied with our toys, our 3 weeks vacation, early retirement, and bigger houses?

Possessing wealth is not a sin. Enjoying wealth is not a sin. The Bible makes that clear. The desire for comfort is God-given. Our race was made to be kings and queens on the earth (and will be one day again). But the wealth of this fallen age has great potential to shipwreck our faith. We need not fear persecution (at present); but we need fear our prosperity. Material blessings can lead to a slow death, a quiet slide into a material fatness that leaves us devoid of spiritual vigor and life. Wealth is crouching at our door. Its desire is to have us, but we must master it. And there is no better way to master wealth than to spend it on the cause of Christ. I enjoy a nice meal out now and again, and I have a few hobbies that require a bit of money. But it is my prayer—my aim in this life—to take the great weapon of wealth that our enemy wields so skillfully against us and use it to strike against his kingdom. The cause of Christ does not hinge on the American dollar, but the Great Commission does require money. We Americans have it. Let’s not waste too much of it on silly, earthly things. We are in a war.

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