September 7, 2018 § Leave a comment
From The Guardian: “Psychological and social science research supports that living amid the wealthy even when you are upper-middle class is pretty bad for your mental health. … low social rank opens people up to psychological disorders such as depression. Essentially, if you are surrounded by those who ‘outrank’ you, it is likely to affect your identity in insidious ways.”
The secular world ponders the effects of trying to keep up with the joneses, the futility of which Solomon observed long ago: “And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 4:4)
God’s Tenth Commandment in Exodus 20 tells us, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house… or anything that is your neighbor’s.” (verse 17) So comparing yourself to your neighbor is not just a pointless venture but an offense to God. But it’s also something else. A loving God desires for us not to bring harm to ourselves, and covetousness, as evidenced by the research mentioned above, has detrimental effects on our own lives.
Why does covetousness lead to depression? Because when we obsess over what our neighbor has it takes our focus off what we have and puts it on what we think is missing.
Consequently, we are failing to accomplish another thing that brings glory to God and also impacts our own mental health: Thankfulness. An abundance of research lauds the benefits of gratitude, something we hear about often around Thanksgiving. One of the hallmarks of the fools decried in Romans 1:21 is that “although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God not gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” A heart that covets has neither the vision nor capacity to thank God for what we already have.
The covetousness forbidden in the 10th commandment is basically a form of the idolatry forbidden in the first, where we ignore God’s provision to us and look to objects or status for our ultimate satisfaction and identity. For God’s glory and for our own mental well-being, we can do better. Count your blessings and let your neighbor keep track of theirs.
November 22, 2017 § 1 Comment
Thankfulness is an integral part of knowing and worshiping God. That’s a perspective that Albert Mohler shared on his daily The Briefing program based on a few passages in the Bible that don’t normally get pulled out around Thanksgiving time.
“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” (Romans 1:19-23)
Often this passage is an apologetic for knowledge we all have of our Creator, the existence of Whom can be inductively reasoned from observing creation. But in verse 21, those who reject God “did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him.” Rejecting God logically, but maybe not intuitively, goes right along with not being thankful to Him for all He provides. A lack of thankfulness indicates idolatry. The absurdity in feeling thankful at Thanksgiving (which almost everyone does) while rejecting God as the ultimate provider is that we are crediting everything to no one.
Here is where Paul places absence of thankfulness in his 2nd letter to Timothy: “… in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
Right there in verse 3, “ungrateful” is among the descriptors of the evil people we should avoid. Though not intuitively, a lack of thanksgiving goes hand-in-hand with all kinds of wickedness.
We try to impress on our son the need for a thankful heart, specifically in our prayers. Even at age 4 or 5, my wife and I were happy to hear him pray before meals and at bed time. At first I dismissed the content of his prayers as childish, because he would thank God for things like trees, grass, and “the ground we can stand on”, along with other aspects of nature. But when I think about the connection between observing God’s creation and thankfulness, I began to see my son’s simple prayers as profound. Am I that thankful for the many things I take for granted, foundational realities like “the ground we can stand on”? In teaching children, we can actually learn a lot ourselves.
With a contrite heart, David wrote in Psalm 106:
“Both we and our fathers have sinned;
we have committed iniquity; we have done wickedness.
Our fathers, when they were in Egypt,
did not consider Your wondrous works;
they did not remember the abundance of Your steadfast love,
but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea.
Yet He saved them for His name’s sake…”
May we not forget God’s wondrous works and the abundance of His steadfast love, a love that drove God to offer, through Jesus Christ, forgiveness and salvation even to forgetful, rebellious, and ungrateful people. “Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15). And I would echo my son’s prayer: “Thank you for the ground we can stand on!”
August 29, 2015 § Leave a comment
Whatever we are after in this life, we eventually end up with for the prize. We can know God and enjoy Him forever, or we end up with ourselves, by ourselves. So what, more accurately who, are we pursuing?
When the Creator offered us Himself to enjoy, Eve and Adam chose their own pursuit. Ever since, God has been once again offering Himself, the sacrifice of His own Son Jesus to redeem us from the sin we chose instead. Specifically, the just penalty of our sin, but in a sense, to save us from ourselves.
Autonomy is an important part of self-ruling government and a society free of coercion, but the idolatry (emphasis on the “I”) of autonomy (pronounced autono-ME) is where we imagine ourselves independent of our Creator, a cancer in mankind’s history. Over what was God’s, we have elevated our own name at Babel(1), our own intellect in the Enlightenment, our own accomplishments in the Titanic, our own rights above the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death, and our own sexual autonomy and fluid personal identity in the current moral revolution. In the pursuit of unlimited sexual freedom, we have made our own rules for free love, have redefined marriage, and tried to anchor our very identity in the shallow pond of sexual expression. We’ve unhinged race from genetic reality and gender from biological sex(2). We are removing gender labels from toy aisles and bathrooms (to “avoid confusion”) and letting our children decide their own gender. Even species may be up for negotiation soon, as one Washington couple wants to raise their child “to self-identify with whatever species it thinks it actually is.”(3)
God is gracious even in His judgment, because even lost souls end up with what they’ve always wanted: themselves, all by themselves. Hell will be filled with those who spend this life in pursuit of themselves and ultimately get what they’ve pursued in the next. Heaven will be filled with those who pursue God through belief in Jesus Christ. If we set our sights on Him here, we have eternity with Him. Likewise, setting our sights on others—loving God and neighbor in that order—means we will not be worshiping alone in Heaven.
Have you discovered your idolatry of autonomy? There’a better Way. Take the next exit and turn around. Repent of the worship of self and put your faith in Christ, who offers us Himself instead.
“We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6)
1) Genesis 11:4