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Living for God

November 19, 2008

Most Christians live our lives serving ourselves. And most of us carry an additional burden — the costly addiction to a lifestyle we really cannot afford. As a result, we have little or nothing left over to serve God and our brothers and sisters. That needs to change.

2Co 5:14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.
2Co 5:15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

The above passage is one that most Christians know, one that we love to sing. But many of us do not think about it in sufficient depth. It tells us that the cross compels us to live for Christ, and not for ourselves. Living for God is not just a good idea. It is not optional. We are compelled to live for Christ. Do we even know what it looks like to live for Christ? How are we are doing at that?

I’m afraid that too many Christians are not doing so well at it. Most of our days are spent earning money (both husband and wife) so we can pay for all the things that make us feel successful — the house, the cars, the furniture, the wide-screen TV, the clothes, the cell phones, the vacations, the luxuries for our children… We are spending our lives accumulating stuff. We are slaves to consumption. That is living for ourselves, not for him who died for us and was raised again.

In many cases, the standard of living we pursue is one that we can scarcely attain. The pursuit leaves us exhausted and stressed out at the end of the day, and leaves us broke at the end of each month. We are earning money as fast as we can, and are spending it faster than we earn it. Our habit of material consumption is an addiction every bit as enslaving as an addiction to drugs. And just like addiction to drugs, this addiction leads us to a miserable place. While seeking joy and fulfillment, we find instead anxiety and emptiness.

Is this what God had in mind when he called us to live for him?

The early Christians had a different perspective on life, and particularly on material things:

Act 2:44 All the believers were together and had everything in common.
Act 2:45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.

Act 4:34 There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales
Act 4:35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.

The early Christians were expected to have a different attitude toward material possessions:

1Ti 6:6 But godliness with contentment is great gain.
1Ti 6:7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.
1Ti 6:8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.
1Ti 6:9 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.
1Ti 6:10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Are we content with food and clothing? Or do we really have to have that big house in the best school district?

Our pursuit of material things has lured us far afield from the model of the family presented in scripture. Today, in most families, both husband and wife work outside the home to earn enough money to pay for the standard of living they have chosen. But in the biblical model, the wife managed the home while the husband earned a living for the family. Paul wrote to Titus that the older women were to teach the younger women as follows:

Tit 2:4 Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children,
Tit 2:5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

Women “busy at home?” Our culture absolutely hates that teaching! But as Christians, those who call Jesus our Lord, we are obligated to live according to God’s will. Yet we also struggle with this biblical teaching. And we suffer as a result.

Paul also wrote to Timothy describing the kind of life that Christian women were called to live:

1Ti 5:9 No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband,
1Ti 5:10 and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.

Women “bringing up children?” Women “showing hospitality?” Our contemporary western culture rejects that model of the family. It sounds so “sexist” to modern ears. Today, women are encouraged to work outside the home to find fulfillment and to reach their potential. But that hasn’t been working out too well. Combining a career, household management, and motherhood is producing stress, fatigue, and frustration in millions of households. How fulfilling is a life in which you are always frustrated and exhausted? Too many women are at the end of their rope all the time, never really satisfied with the results on any of their various battlefields. For many, the ultimate frustration is that after all the sacrifice, instead of receiving gratitude at home, the children are rebellious and disrespectful, and the marriage is on the rocks. This was not how these mothers envisioned it turning out.

Adding to the frustration is that these families tend to be getting deeper and deeper into the financial hole. Instead of being comfortably well off with a second income, the family has become addicted to every dollar the two parents can earn. There is no room for error. Every dollar is spoken for. Whenever an unexpected expense comes along, or when one of them loses a job, the stress skyrockets as they desperately seek some way to meet their obligations.

At the end of the workday, the parents struggle to catch up with household and parenting responsibilities. But there is neither time nor energy for it. Tempers are short. Relationships are strained. So the couples reap what they have sown. In too many cases that includes screaming fights with rebellious teenagers, strained relations with the spouse, and even divorces.

And, of course, there is no room in such a life to “live for God.” Every nickel, every minute, and every ounce of energy is spent living for ourselves, trying in vain to deal with all the family issues that were caused by our choice of lifestyle. This is living for ourselves, not for God — and it is not working out very well! As Paul said, those who live like this are piercing themselves with many griefs.

There really is a better way. Downsize your life! Simplify! That may mean selling the house and buying a smaller one. It may mean letting someone like Dave Ramsey help you get out of debt and gain control of your financial situation. It probably means budgeting to live on the husband’s income, so the wife can fulfill her biblical role at home. It certainly means saying “No” to a lot of urges to buy, to consume, to possess. Peace and happiness really do follow from self denial and serving others. You can map out a plan to get there, and spend your remaining blessed days serving the creator of the universe!

1Pe 4:1 Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.
1Pe 4:2 As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.

How will you spend the rest of your earthly life?

In your old age, sitting in a rocking chair at the old folks home, you won’t be wishing you had worked longer hours in your job. You won’t be wishing you had lived in a bigger house in a nicer neighborhood. You won’t be wishing you had bought a bigger TV screen.

Instead, you might be wishing you were still on speaking terms with your children. Or your spouse. You might wish you had spent your time helping others instead of chasing the wind. You might wish you had stored your treasure in heaven.

Or maybe you will be glad you lived your life serving God. It’s your choice. Make room for God in your life.

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2 comments

  1. Thank you for this! Occasionally, in the midst of daily struggles, I lose sight of the improtance of what our family is trying to do. I can’t tell you how many times I hear people, members of the church, tell us how “lucky” we are to be able to do what we are doing. They would have more children -or- would stay home if they could afford it. Then they get into their brand new SUV and drive off to meet their friends at the new restaurant in town while we get into our used van and head off to enjoy our beans and cornbread.


  2. Thanks for commenting, Smockity Frocks. You and your family, and others like you, are setting an example that is a real inspiration. You are having more influence for God than you know.



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