Friday, January 10, 2014

The Dangers of Abundance and Happiness

            I’ve noticed that a popular teaching out there is that because we are the children of the King, we should be living in royal abundance.  And this is an attractive idea because we all want things: more things, better things, impressive things.  We don’t like to do without, to be in need, or to settle for less.
            But this kind of teaching is off-base Biblically, waaaayyyy off-base. 

            Not only does this ignore the whole “give us this day our daily bread” principle, but when you look at Scripture, you see that the purpose for everything is God’s glory, not our comfort or pleasure.  Even the Son’s purpose is to bring glory to the Father.
            John 14:13:  “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.”
            People who perpetuate this “abundance” notion say that we need to be living out of abundance, not poverty, because our Father’s resources are unlimited.  We should be clothed in fine clothes and have nice things because our Father owns the cattle on a thousand hills.  And we should live like “children of the King” and not paupers.
            Yes, I do believe that God enjoys it when we enjoy His blessings.  And He likes to give good things to His children.  And, yes, I think it is a good thing to make sure that what we put in our homes are beautiful, quality things that we enjoy, instead of just random, cheap junk.  But when we are pursuing “things” so that we can impress others, feel secure, or “live it up” in this lifetime - instead of using what He gives us to bless others and glorify Him - we are on the wrong track.  We are living for ourselves.
            I do believe that we should be living out of abundance - but not in the way that they teach.  I believe that we should be living out of abundance when it comes to living generously, to looking out for others, to tithing faithfully, and to obediently taking risks as God calls us to.  However, I do not think that it means that we should be seeking to satisfy our selfish desires for temporary things or that we should be focused on our own abundance.
            Focusing on our own enjoyment, appearance, abundance, and “stuff” is far different than living as a servant and focusing on God, His kingdom, and others.  And, sorry, but you can’t use the argument that being clothed in fine garments makes God look better, when He clearly talks about how our beauty should not come from “outward adornment . . . the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes.”  (1 Peter 3:3)
            Yes, this verse is mainly speaking about a woman’s beauty, but I think it relates to how we should be reflecting God’s glory.  Not with outward adornments or with an abundance of fine things, but with a beautiful, godly inner spirit.  It’s one thing to take care of ourselves and to do our best to look presentable and respectable.  But it’s another to make our appearance and comfort one of our highest concerns.
            We should be more concerned with the condition of our souls than we are with our outer appearance.  And we should be more concerned with other people’s souls than we are with our “stuff.”  How polished, fancy, and rich we look isn’t going to matter if people don’t see God’s glory reflected by how we live the fruit of the Spirit.
            Once again, it does please Him to see us happy and to give us things to enjoy.  He wants us to delight in Him, His creation, and His blessings.  We should find happiness in the things we do, such as playing games with our kids, gardening, decorating our houses, taking walks, etc.  But it is another thing to pursue happiness as an end in itself, to be so overly concerned with our own happiness that we fail to cultivate an attitude of thankfulness, generosity, contentment, and joy in the life that we have.
            In our society, we have perpetuated the notion that “God just wants us to be happy.”  But I don’t think this is Biblical.  Yes, as I said, God likes to bless us, to see us enjoying His blessings and gifts.  After all, He tells His people many times in the Old Testament how He will bless them if they obey.  He wants to bless His children.  But the problem is that when we seek happiness over joy, we end up running after the things that we think will make us happy instead of finding joy in the things that God has given us or wants for us.
            God wants us to be joyful, not pursue happiness.  (And we can learn to be happy, as well as joyful, with whatever He gives us.)  Happiness is a feeling based on our circumstances, but joy is a state of mind that comes from living life firmly rooted in God.  Happiness is like having calm waters and lots of food, but joy is the ability to have a deep sense of stability and thankfulness and faith in God despite the stormy waves and famine.
            God does not necessarily call us to either abundance or poverty.  He calls us to be joyful in whatever circumstances we are in.  It’s not about what we have or don’t have; it’s about our attitudes.  By all means, pray for blessings and financial stability - abundance, even – but remember that it’s about glorifying God in the here and now, with whatever you have.  If you have a lot, praise God and use it to be a blessing to others.  If you have a little, praise God and be faithful with it, blessing others with your attitude and your faithful handling of it.  And do not be concerned with the blessings that God has given others.  This can only lead to envy.  Count only your own blessings.
            We need to be less concerned about getting the things that make us “happy,” and more concerned with finding our identity in Christ.  Then no matter our circumstances, we can be joyful because we know Who we belong to and Who holds us up.