22 January 2009

Can We Have Nice Things?

In the fear that Why We Can't Have Nice Things could be taken to extremes, I must make some clarifications. This will require a little review of where we've been.

Back on the post Luxury, Comfort and Simple Living I 'rote:
I don't wish to say right now that having "stuff" is bad in itself. The danger is losing a sense of gratitude for all that you are given. Yes, it is given, not earned. I am contending that those who continually harbor that thankfulness and a remembrance of people with less will be compelled to help those people. Then the luxuries become sour and the "sacrifices of love" become sweet.

Then in the next post I quoted 1 Tim. 6:17-19 and said:
Last time I said I shouldn't be arrogant in my desire for comfort, but thankful instead. "Haughty" in verse 17 could be translated "arrogant." Then I said thankfulness should lead to good works, as in verse 18. This passage also never condemns "stuff" in itself, but condemns putting our hope in our stuff.

So, again, I find the Scriptures never condemn having stuff. It does not say we CANNOT have nice things. So in that sense the phrase could be confusing.

The foundation for all of this is love for God and love for neighbor. Remember this.

There seem to be certain temporary pleasures God has granted to exist for us here in order to hold us over until we cross Jordan and enter the promised land. I must acknowledge that the song I mentioned last time used examples of marriage and having children, things which we can only experience in this life. So these are temporary pleasures. Does that mean we must seek them or else we will miss out on life? NO. I think they are to hold us over. They are good, but there is better. Instead, focus on seeking His kingdom. Work! It is urgent!

This issue is difficult in my mind and has yet to be reconciled: The promise to the children of Israel is specifically earthly. It was a promise of a land flowing with milk and honey. (Also note the lack of afterlife references in the Old Testament). The promise to Gentile believers is specifically heavenly. Our "promised land" is in heaven. So how are Christians to live in the interim? Are we to seek temporal blessings as though the promises to Israel are to be applied to us literally? I don't believe so. How we are to live is complicated. That's been the whole point of all this. Again, it comes down to love for God and love for neighbor. I've been trying to say that people such as I are far too comfortable; that we need to be shaken from our comforts and luxuries in nice things to remember our neighbors; that we need to stop believing the lies of the world and hope in God.

Now, consider a hypothetical Christian that loves God and is earnestly seeking to live for Christ. He spends significant time helping at a homeless shelter. He has grown up in a low-income family and has never known luxury. One day he wins a contest for a brand new high-def plasma 58 inch TV. So at this juncture I do not say that having a TV in itself is wrong. But I CANNOT conceive of this person being excited at winning a TV if his love for his neighbor runs deep. Is he feeding that homeless guy, just itching to get home and sit back in his chair to watch The Office? Is that love for his neighbor? Is there no guilt there? Again, if he has never known luxury, to get excited at having such a TV means he has bought in to the world's lie that a TV is better, like he's been oppressed and has suddenly tasted some freedom. But would it really make his life better? Sure, he can be thankful to God for the TV as a temporary pleasure or a means to relax, but will he continue to seek God as his means to refuel or will he waste away hours watching movies? As I said before, I should think that one whose love runs deep will find luxuries becoming sour. And I don't think this is specific to the telly -- it is always stuff that gets in the way:

Mat 19:21 Jesus said to him, "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."
Mat 19:22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
Mat 19:23 And Jesus said to his disciples, "Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven.
Mat 19:24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God."

Mar 4:18 And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word,
Mar 4:19 but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.

Is it not the poor that are truly blessed by God? For they are blessed in spirit having a lack of blessings in the flesh. Those such as me blessed in the flesh have a difficult time surrendering my hope in things to hope in God.

Ultimately in your life if you understand yourself to be in right standing before God in your love towards Him and your neighbor while having stuff, I am not to judge that.

By the way, I promise I won't become cross when you cross me.

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