Before I go any farther with this series I call “Just Pilgrims” I need to explain something. I mentioned in several posts in my series on “True Discipleship” that I have been greatly impacted by Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book The Cost of Discipleship. The title alone caused me to ask what my discipleship is costing me. Bonhoeffer’s discipleship cost him his life. It was during the Second World War as a resident of Nazi Germany that he chose to defend and live out his faith instead of cowering down to the Nazis. He ended up spending his last days in a prison camp before he was executed.
What has my discipleship cost me? Very little actually. And that’s why I want to make something very clear. I don’t want anyone to think that because I write about how we Christians should live as followers of Christ that I’m walking step by step with Him. I’m not. My life needs to change, and if you’re an American Christian there’s a good chance yours does also. The American culture is for the most part diametrically opposed to the principles of the Bible.
Today’s topic is an area in which I constantly struggle.
We’re taking a look at the book of Ecclesiastes. When we left chapter one King Solomon had painted a fairly dismal picture of our lives. Let me summarize. Everything we do is meaningless.
Kind of makes you wonder why he bothered writing the rest of the book. There was a reason. Being a wise man he probably knew just telling us we’re living meaningless lives wouldn’t be too convincing. So he recounted his journey that led to that conclusion.
His first stop was to check out pleasure and possessions.
I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure. So enjoy yourself.” And behold, it too was futility. I said of laughter, “It is madness,” and of pleasure, “What does it accomplish?” I explored with my mind how to stimulate my body with wine while my mind was guiding me wisely, and how to take hold of folly, until I could see what good there is for the sons of men to do under heaven the few years of their lives. Ecclesiastes 2:1-3
Wine and folly didn’t do much for him. Maybe possessions would come through.
I enlarged my works: I built houses for myself, I planted vineyards for myself; I made gardens and parks for myself and I planted in them all kinds of fruit trees; I made ponds of water for myself from which to irrigate a forest of growing trees. I bought male and female slaves and I had home born slaves. Also I possessed flocks and herds larger than all who preceded me in Jerusalem. Also, I collected for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I provided for myself male and female singers and the pleasures of men—many concubines. Then I became great and increased more than all who preceded me in Jerusalem. My wisdom also stood by me. Ecclesiastes 2:4-9
Then in verse 10 he declared “All that my eyes desired I did not refuse them.”
Can you imagine doing everything and having everything you see? Ridiculous, we say. Or is it?
Many Christians spend a lifetime not refusing their eyes. Oh, we’re civilized about it. While saying no to spending a night with a prostitute, they say yes to living with someone who isn’t their spouse.
While refusing to blow their whole paycheck in a slot machine in Las Vegas, they choose to live under a mountain of debt so they can have things.
Isn’t the result the same? We find it easy to justify our entitled life style by dismissing the Bible as outdated and not relevant to today. Or worse we choose to cherry pick the commandments that won’t interfere with how we want to live. After all, doesn’t God want us to be happy?
God wants us to be obedient. Sex outside of marriage is disobedience. Drunkenness is disobedience. Greed is disobedience.
We are prohibited from any pursuit of pleasure or possessions that is not in line with God’s commandments.
Yet, our pursuit continues. Justification is easy. I’ve earned it. I deserve it.
Once we become followers of Jesus we don’t deserve anything. Every part of our lives is a gift from God. Our salvation. Our forgiveness. Our very next heartbeat. And why do I think I’ve earned it? Haven’t my abilities come from God?
If we need some other motivation to stop our senseless pursuit of pleasure and possessions then Solomon offers this:
Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun. Ecclesiastes 2:11
What am I pursuing because I think I’ve earned it or I think I deserve it? Is it in line with God’s commandments? Does my pursuit even slightly lean toward disobedience? If so, it needs to stop.
My life isn’t supposed to be about me any longer. It’s supposed to be about others. The resources I’m using to pursue pleasure and possessions should be directed toward serving others.
Last year I purchased a new car. Yes, I needed a car. Did I need the one I bought? I didn’t even consider that question. One of us, the car or me, will wear out someday. Then what? If the car goes before I do, will I consider my next purchase based on something other than what I can afford? Will my budget for my next car purchase be based on the needs of someone else?
As I wrote at the beginning of this post, I’m far from where I should be as a follower of Christ. My discipleship isn’t costing me very much. The pursuit of pleasure and possessions is an area in my life that needs a serious adjustment.