I don’t know about you, but I look forward to church on the weekends. Whether it’s a Saturday night or Sunday morning service, I want to be found in God’s house with His people on the weekend. It’s not a religious ritual or spiritual obligation to me. It’s a necessity. It’s a lifeline.
This past weekend was no different. It’s always interesting to me to see attendance during the first few weekends of the year. Many people have just made New Year’s resolutions, probably some of which included spiritual growth to some degree. Just like at the gym. Those first few weeks of the year, it’s packed, right? You can’t ever find an open treadmill or piece of equipment to use because everyone and their mother made resolutions to get in physical shape. It’s when it starts to get hard that you begin to see the crowds thin out.
Well, the first sermon of the year at my church this weekend was hard. Really hard. But really good. And really necessary. It was preached with authority and without apology, which unfortunately will probably mean that some of those enthusiastic resolution-makers might not return next weekend.
Because sometimes, the truth hurts. Because sometimes, it needs to hurt.
As our pastor stood in front of several thousand people this weekend and boldly proclaimed the truth about what it really means to be a Christ-follower, a Biblical dividing line was drawn in the sand. There was a call to action that was given to every person who heard the words being preached.
You see, it’s not enough to simply say you believe in Jesus. James 2:19 tells us that even the demons believe in God. So, clearly belief IN God is not enough. Jesus is after committed, whole-hearted, devoted followers. He’s not interested in fans.
But here’s the problem. The average, American Christian does not know what it really means to be desperate. The average, American Christian has been blessed with so much prosperity, that there is often little perceived “need” for God. And to each of you reading my words right now who might be tempted to say, “I am not prosperous. I am not rich. I have many, many material needs,” might I remind you that even if you only make $15,000 per year, you are considered rich compared to the majority of the rest of the world. There is so much excess in our lives, that we often forget what it would actually look like to live desperate for Jesus.
And therein lies the problem—it’s the problem of prosperity. You see, the problem with prosperity is that it can serve as a distraction from our desperate need for Jesus. We truly want for little, therefore, we forget to live as if Jesus were all that we need. All of our “stuff” and our constant desire for more “stuff” leaves us in a dangerous place when it comes to our faith.
How would you answer this question, honestly:
Which do you love more: Jesus or your stuff?
Your answer is telling, but even more than that, the way that you live your life is really the answer to that question. If it truly came down to it and you were forced to choose one or the other, which would it be? Jesus or your stuff? Jesus or your blessings? Jesus or your family? Jesus or your success? Jesus or ….?
I don’t for one second think that Jesus was opposed to prosperity. He is the one who blesses us with everything that we have. He was, however, cautious of it. Why? Because He knew it would so easily become a stumbling block for us. Wealth and prosperity are difficult things to manage, because they often end up managing you.
This is precisely why (I believe) that the story of Jesus and the rich young ruler was recorded in Scripture for us to read two thousand years later. Read it for yourself in Luke 18:18-29. Here’s what I don’t think Jesus was saying. Jesus wasn’t saying that it is a sin to be rich. He also wasn’t saying that in order to follow Him, you must sell all of your earthly possessions. Here’s what He WAS saying, though. If the things that we own actually own us, then we can’t really be a committed follower of Jesus Christ. If we love our things more than we love Jesus, then we’re more of a fan than we are a follower.
Sometimes, I can’t help but think that it would be far easier to live a simpler life, a life with less stuff. Because the stuff distracts me. It’s the problem with prosperity. Do you recognize today that your deepest need will always be Jesus? Do you understand that until you get that right, nothing else in your life will be right?
Think about it.