Humans tend to want to categorize and label things. “This thing is good.” “This one is bad.” “This matters.” “This doesn’t.” But following the message of Christ and God’s message through the Bible isn’t that simple. Sometimes it’s yes and yes.
Growing up, I heard time and again in church that God loved me. He created me and wanted to know me. He was there to protect me. When I followed him, I got to be a part of a wonderful and exciting life.
That’s exciting. But at some point it became all about me … all about stuff. Great – I’m blessed. But is that all there is?
Then I saw that bad things do happen. Even to people who follow Christ. Even in the Bible. Sometimes they even happen because those people decided to follow Christ.
I then started hearing people who spoke mainly of the Christian life as one of sacrifice. They pointed out the words of Jesus that say “take up your cross and follow me,” and “in this world you will have trouble,” and “sell everything and give it to the poor.” We’re supposed to give all we have. We should use our time and energy to serve others. We should reject materialism, consumerism, “me-ism,” and seek God alone.
That’s exciting. It has a purpose. The problem is, many of these people just didn’t seem to have the same joy and passion in their life that some Christ followers have. They seemed to want everyone to make the same sacrifices they had made in order to prove those people were Christians. Sometimes, they seemed to push people away in their holiness.
There was a tension. Is it ok to enjoy life? Am I not doing enough for Christ if I’m enjoying the choices I make and the risks I take? Should I be doing more?
But then I hear God’s words:
Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.
In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat – for he grants sleep to those he loves.
Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him.
You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours
Your wife will be like a fruitful fine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table.
Yes, this will be the blessing for the man who fears the Lord.
God does bless us, but it is not our own doing. Trusting in him for provision is right. But sometimes we over-emphasize the blessing in an American way. It becomes about stuff – about comfort. When that happens, some overreact and emphasize giving it all up.
In the midst of sacrifice – of taking up our cross and walking in obedience, we can also realize that God does provide. He does care. We’re allowed to be happy and joyful. But it’s not because of our stuff. It’s because of our relationships – with God, with our family, with others. They are things He provides, and He should get all the glory, thanks and excitement for them.
Some things in life don’t have easy answers. Part of following Christ is walking a fine line between living within his blessings and sacrificing it all for His glory. It’s a matter of saying yes and yes. It’s about walking in a relationship – not just following a law or betting it all on a promise.