The Christian and “the Good Life” - Part 2

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

As in The Christian and “the Good Life” - Part 1, I harken back to our family, Christmas vacation with delight, and with high hopes that we might do it again some day.  The familial conversation was rich and rewarding, the hotel was delightfully nostalgic, the architectural images and artistic encounters were elevating, the shopping was thrilling and the food, well, that was just too good to begin to describe.  From the big city breakfasts with corned beef hash, rye toast and orange marmalade to the aged, chop house beef and Chicago style pizza, the verdict was a unanimous “wow.”

Those pleasures that we enjoyed were what put me on this path of consideration.  It caused me to contrast the daily provision at home with the more extravagant presentations of comfort and cuisine on a metropolitan vacation.  It begged the question - How much is too much?  Is it a sin, a carnal indulgence to ingest simply for the pleasure of it?  Should we feel guilty when enjoying the leisure of an off-day or a nice car or clothes that we find suitable to our tastes?

While some of our more legalistic brethren seem to find ways to marginalize even the most benign amusements and conveniences (like belittling people for drinking quality coffee because they could give that money to missions), others seem to think the body of Christ exists for their benefit (like the evangelist who berated the young pastor because the love offering he received from the church was meager).  As always, we have to ask ourselves, “What does the Bible say?”


It is abundantly clear that God wants us to enjoy thingsPaul told Timothy to “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17).   The word enjoy provides us with a cognitive construct that implies meaning.  For instance, joy is found for the first time in the King James Bible in Deuteronomy 28:41 where it is clearly identified with gladness of heart (WEB1828 - “gladness”).  According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the prefix en, in French and English are the same as in in Latin and mean, “to bring into a certain condition.”  To enjoy something is to be brought into a state of delight, joy or gladness because of that something.  It means, to possess, use or experience with delight (OED).  

According to Paul, God intends for us to be brought into joyfulness and delight by the riches that He gives us.  We are to enjoy them. Now we are warned about the potential dangers - two of which stand out.  (1) Arrogance - “be not high-minded;” and, (2) False confidence - “nor trust in uncertain riches” (1 Tim. 6:17).  As long as we are humble and careful to trust God who gave them (Jm. 1:17, 18), then we are free to enjoy our privileges.  John Gill said, “He gives all things richly, largely and plenteously; what is necessary and convenient, and abundantly more than men deserve: and that to enjoy; not to lay up, but to use for support, refreshment, and pleasure, though not to abuse.”

The extremes of materialism and asceticism should both be avoided by the Christian.  When the apostle Paul said “I know how to abound,” (Phil. 4:12), it was clear that he did not feel the need to decline every opportunity to enjoy life’s special moments.  The world’s greatest philosopher, King Solomon, said in Ecclesiastes 5:18-19:

Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion.  Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God.

There is no reason for the conscientious Christian to feel guilty for enjoying the blessings that God gives him.  There is; however, a very important guideline for maintaining spiritual perspective when enjoying abundance.   It is simple.  Share.  Paul charged Timothy that the rich were to “do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate.”  Guy King said the world is made up of “getters and givers.”  David Dunn, author of the 1947 classic, Try Giving Yourself Away, said, “Almost anything in the world can be bought for money - except the warm impulses of the human heart.  They have to be given.”  

The clinched fists of greed and jealousy have never brought joy to anyone’s heart.  However, the glad willingness to share our blessings with others brings with it an inexplicable satisfaction - the richest kind of joy.
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