Sunday, April 28, 2013

Do you have Your Best Life Now?

     You know you want it... there's something basic about humanity that, like water, desires and follows the path of least resistance.  I'm talking about a life filled with peace and abundance, ease and happiness, a glee in disdaining hardship and mocking rejection of the possibility of disaster.  Greek philosophers pondered the methods to achieve this utopian existence, and one branch in particular, the Epicureans, theorized that all men should seek and order their lives to minimize pain and maximize pleasure.
     I've been studying in the Psalms for some time now, and I do want to return for more posts in 2 Cor, but
Not on my Top 10 list...
this topic was too timely to ignore.  You probably have heard of "Your Best Life Now" by Joel Osteen, so I want to intrigue you with a new perspective, a "certain point of view" in which the book genuinely and biblically reflects this earthly life for a select group.  That's exactly what I thought as I read these verses:
"For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek.  They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.  Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment.  Their eyes swell out through fatness; their hearts overflow with follies.  They scoff and speak with malice; loftily they threaten oppression.  They set their mouths against the heavens, and their tongue struts through the earth.  Therefore his people turn back to them, and find no fault in them.  And they say, "How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?" (Ps 73:4-11)
     Sounds great, huh?  These folks have everything one could want, "more than heart could wish" (vs.7 KJV).  We can easily bring this into a modern context:  big houses, nice cars, beautiful spouses, exotic vacations, unrivalled success in their professions... nothing seems to be lacking in this idyllic picture of "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" (or maybe the show "Cribs" for my MTV generation!).  They have no worries, no concerns, and certainly no stress regarding a divine judgment... they don't even think there is such a Judge (vs. 11).  So it's at this point I have to come clean...  I pulled the passage above out of context to make a point:  the people that Asaph (the author of the psalm) is describing, the only people who have their best life now are the "arrogant" and the "wicked" (vs. 3, 12)
     I guess the best way to sum it up is the proverb "Ignorance is bliss";  in many instances, ungodly people can and do enjoy a period of divine mercy;  this is in addition to what theologians call it "common grace", describing earthly blessings that all sorts of people are given.  Also, the patience of God is showered upon unbelievers as evidence of God's mercy and willingness to pardon sin (Rom 2:4). When He has every right to obliterate all of us in the womb at our first moment of selfishness, instead He graciously grants the wicked decades of life, and many (if not most) are given glimpses of the gospel, given opportunities to hear of the saving power of the blood of Christ.  But to no avail:  the material bounty they enjoy is enough to drown out the appeal of God in Christ (like the "cares of the world";  Mt 13:22).  
Not the place you want to see an old church friend...
     I ran into an old friend a couple of days ago, a sad story of failed discipleship:  at a previous church, I had started meeting with this young man.  He was excited to meet and usually showed up, but I couldn't help but notice he made no real effort in investigating the text of the Bible for himself.  He was full of excuses and had no shortage of free time, but always managed to avoid actually reading the Scripture (like a kid getting out of cleaning his room!).  So I was shocked to see him this week twice in one day:  the first time he was walking into a casino (one of our bus routes runs right in front of one) with another man, and was just finishing a cigarette.  Then about 4 hours later, I was grabbing a snack right in a grocery store before the last run of the night;  I turned the corner and there he was!  I chatted him up for almost 5 minutes... he had a WIC voucher in his cart (Washington's low-income assistance for mothers and young children) and told me that he was working for minimum wage with a wife and baby to provide for.  He was living in a small apartment in the rundown part of town.  I asked him where he was attending church, and surprise, surprise, he told me it had been a while since he darkened the door of a church.  In retrospect, the best thing I could think was "Well, at least he's not rich!".  The worst thing, the most damning thing you could wish for someone in rebellion against God is prosperity. 

Photos courtesy of Amazon, Michael Kappel

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