January 5, 2016

Why are we obsessed with safety and affluence?

We live in a society and world that pushes two things vigorously: physical safety, and financial affluence.  

These two are not necessary evils per se, but when they become the driving force behind an individual, or family, or nation, they corrupt.  

Sadly, even within the church we see these two goals held high.  Whenever we go on a trip, whether it be to the grocery store, to work, or across the country or world, we pray that God would "keep us safe" and "bring us safely home."  There is nothing particularly wrong with either of those prayers, but I think we should reevaluate the why behind them.  

What prompted my thinking on both of these fronts was Francis Chan's powerful book Crazy Love, and Christmas.  Let me explain. 

In his chapter Profile of the Obsessed Chan describes the characteristics of someone completely consumed with "a single emotion or topic."  In juxtaposition, he shows his readers what it would be like to take risks in our Faith walk, to really grow our love for Jesus... no matter what.  

"We are consumed by safety.  Obsessed with it, actually.  Now I'm not saying it is wrong to pray for God's protection, but I am questioning how we've made safety our highest priority.  We've elevated safety to the neglect of whatever God's best is, whatever would bring God the most glory, or whatever would accomplish His purposes in our lives and in the world.  
Would you be willing to pray this prayer?  God, bring me closer to You during this trip, whatever it takes....
People who are obsessed with Jesus aren't consumed with their personal safety and comfort above all else.  Obsessed people care more about God's kingdom coming to this earth than their own lives being shielded from pain or distress."  

I've seen this first hand in the cultural church, when people discuss the neighborhood they just moved into that is a gated community and only those with the access code can enter; or the best school they just enrolled their kids in; or how about job security?  I understand how important a job is in order to survive, but too often we are obsessed with having the highest paying job in our field, so we can provide our family or ourselves with the best.  

Have we even considered that God might want us to take our family, and downsize into a smaller house in the inner city, so we can truly be effective evangelists?  Or does that feel too dangerous?  Are we really willing to sacrifice our dream of a perfect little family living inside a beautiful house with a white picket fence, walking hand in hand to the school nearby?  

What do we love?  Is it the life we have built, or is it the life God wants to build for us, which might include getting rid of things which make our life more easy or comfortable?  Are we willing to risk all in order to be closer to Jesus?  Or do we just want what we think we need?  

Tying into Christmas, I realized again how materialistic our society is, how obsessed with the newest, fastest, coolest thing we are.  As I got thinking about what I wanted, what was on my list, I realized just how selfish and materialistic I had become.  Yes, I wasn't asking for anything immoral or bad, but was I asking for things that were necessary to my life?  Or that would aid my spiritual growth?  

You see, too often the things we allow into our lives are the very things which keep us from growing closer to Jesus.  It is almost impossible to live a minimalistic lifestyle in our materialistic world.  Why do I bring this into the picture?  Because the more things we have to steward, and care for here, the less time with have to devote to God, our family and the world.  This could include how large our house is (how much time does it take to clean and keep orderly?)  How many pieces of clothing are in our closets. How much time we spend on social media trying to keep up with the Joneses, etc.  When our lives are so cluttered with other things and activities, we don't have as much time or focus to devote to Jesus, and growing our Faith and Love for Him. 

Back to Chan: 

"Don't we live instead as though God is created for us, to do our bidding, to bless us, and to take care of our loved ones?"
The question I keep coming back to since September 21st is "am I willing to be available to do whatever God wants me to do?  Will I be able to bend my will to do His?  Or am I so proud as to think I know better than Him? 

For some of us, these two things (safety and affluence) are pillars upholding a comfortable life.  Is God calling us to take an ax to them?  Isn't He calling us to align our lives more with His plan, than with ours, even if feels unsafe and foreign?  I would argue that He is.  

As we begin a new year, let's take the time to evaluate our lives on these two fronts, and see how we can become more like Jesus.  

"Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!  It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!”
“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”   Mark 10:24b-31 

 Francis Chan, Crazy Love, pp. 33, 133