In the previous sturdy we saw how being in a comfortable life can lead to ingratitude, and to lust for more. Even being prepared to do anything to get the more that is believed to be needed. And so a downward spiral is initiated.
Instead of gratitude for the good and wonderful things that you have, there is the lust for more and complaint that you have not got it. The objects of desire become idols, and you begin to think you ‘deserve’ these things.
In the modern day, temptation to such a downwards spiral is more prevalent. Why? Because of the huge increase in advertising and because of our televisions. And now also because of our computers and mobile phones. We are bombarded with advertising, and the advertisers have done research into how to create an insatiable desire for something. We feel that it is a necessity and, almost, that it is a breach of our human rights to be without it.
Listen – these are the things that you need: food, drink, clothes, love, and somewhere to sleep. That’s it. Nothing else. These are the only things that you need.
And these are also the things that test love in a community, love in a church, and love in an individual. Is there someone in need of food? Are they left to starve or are you prepared to share a meal? Or maybe even to take that person to the store and make sure they have provisions to keep them going for a while. How about thirsty? Not everywhere has clean water easily on hand, so are you prepared to share some of yours? And is there a person being made homeless? Well here is something, I do not believe a Christian should ever be homeless. This is a real case of care and love in action. Many people in most churches have a spare room to let someone stay until they can sort out alternate accommodation.
I left the best until last – is there someone lacking love? For sure, the words ‘I love you’ can be just words and meaningless. The truth is shown by actions and not words. By seeing care in action. But more than that – love takes time. You need to spend time with a person, and show that you are willing for this time, that you do not begrudge the time, and that there is a caring heart rather than a sense of duty. But if there are good works, and still a person has never heard ‘I love you’… I have to confess that it is a personal nightmare and dread of mine to think it could ever be possible that I may never hear those three words said to me again in my life.
I never say these words unless I mean it. But people need to hear it, and so I will not hold back if there is love in my heart. And this is also part of the character of God, although I have a very very long way to go to even begin to approach his generosity and extravagance in love!
But now we come to a reading from the prophecy that has a very different feeling about it.
And you took your sons and daughters whom you bore to me and sacrificed them as food to the idols. Was your prostitution not enough? You slaughtered my children and sacrificed them to the idols. In all your detestable practices and your prostitution you did not remember the days of your youth, when you were naked and bare, kicking about in your blood.
Woe! Woe to you, declares the Sovereign Lord. In addition to all your other wickedness, you built a mound for yourself and made a lofty shrine in every public square. At every street corner you built your lofty shrines and degraded your beauty, spreading your legs with increasing promiscuity to anyone who passed by. You engaged in prostitution with the Egyptians, your neighbours with large genitals, and aroused my anger with your increasing promiscuity. So I stretched out my hand against you and reduced your territory; I gave you over to the greed of your enemies, the daughters of the Philistines, who were shocked by your lewd conduct. You engaged in prostitution with the Assyrians too, because you were insatiable; and even after that, you still were not satisfied. Then you increased your promiscuity to include Babylonia, a land of merchants, but even with this you were not satisfied.
Well, not a bedtime story for kids… There are a number of places in scripture where we can see that the words are not softened for the sake of modern sensitivities.
But there is a further indication here of the truth that I said before – that ingratitude leads to wanting something else or something more. That desire leads to idolatry and to sin, because you begin to want to do whatever it takes to reach what you desired. But what of when you have it? There is always something else to desire, always something more. So you do more of what you know deep inside you should not be doing in order to reach the object of desire. But there is always then the desire for something else. Last week it was a Playstation, this week it is an expensive computer. Then after that a 4K television, and then you want a car, and after that a house, and a larger house, and, and….
And in the process, many become willing to use others, to step on the ambitions of others, to put others down so that you can appear higher. It becomes win at all costs.
But when you make a society one of win at all costs, that means you must, by definition, have losers. And what happens to them? For sure, there are some that deserve to be in such a position because they were lazy and never put any efforts into doing something with life. Or else they developed self-destructive habits. Yet Jesus can transform the lives of such people also…
But the ironic thing is that people work hard to achieve more and more success, and particularly financial success, because they have the illusion that this will bring them a life of ease and comfort when they have it. Yet it doesn’t! It doesn’t work that way! What happens is that there is always something else to go for, because you see someone with something that you then decide you want…
Life in Christ is not like this.
We are not meant to have winners and losers, we are supposed to all move forward into the Father’s hands and to enjoy his blessing. You don’t do this by trying to rush, or to get there before someone else can. You can’t tread on someone’s head to reach higher to the Lord. And you can’t do it on your own.
I know what some of you are thinking at this point. You think that my meaning in the end of the previous paragraph was about Jesus. We can’t reach the father because we need Jesus. Well, this is completely true. But it is not only that. The life in the spirit is simply not meant to be a lonely life.
And here is something… Those who slow down, or even stop and go back a bit to help someone who is exhausted, or to pull someone forwards who was slipping back. These are the ones who find they succeed more!
Or the person who sees another injured on the way, so carries them, or pulls them along, or gives a ‘piggy back’, – these are the ones who will be most treasured before god.
In the Christian walk, it is never about ‘looking after number one.’ It is making sure that you help along all those who are around you. In the natural and worldly way of thinking you would not want to do this, because those others would be holding you back while you sprint forwards pushing all others aside.
But in Christ you do not push aside, you say, ‘Do you need some help? Here – grab my hand. I’ll help you get there!’
In the natural that would slow you down and you would lose the race.
In the spiritual it is not about winning ahead of others anyway. It’s about love. And this is why Jesus said that the first shall be last, and the last come first to the Father.
If you forget to love, you endanger your own spiritual welfare.