Monday, October 19, 2009

Enjoying the Good Things of Life

The Bible teaches that material blessings are gifts from God (Deut. 8:18). Since they are a gift from God, they are good (James 1:17). This makes “excessive austerity” an unbiblical extreme to be avoided. However, the rejection of excessive austerity should not lead to the other extreme, which is license. John Calvin provides a biblical balance between the above extremes [1] .

Some believers throughout church history have argued that one may only use material things as they are necessary and must avoid using material things for pleasure. Calvin arguing against excessive austerity suggests that we do not make a mistake when we use material things for the purpose for which they were created. He quotes Psalm 104:15 to prove that God gives material things for both necessity and pleasure.

"and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to
strengthen man's heart" (ESV).
He asks rhetorically is it unlawful to enjoy the beauty and odor of a rose? Calvin answering his own question suggests that food was given both to provide nutrition and to enjoy and clothing is provided both for protection and to look honorable. These things are blessings from God, which if we have, we should gratefully enjoy. To be unthankful and not enjoy God’s blessings is certainly sinful.

However, material things should not be one’s highest priority. Other things are more important than material things: God, faith, wisdom, eternal things, people, etc. The Bible teaches that believers should love God supremely (Deut. 6:5), that he cannot serve both God and wealth (Matt. 6:24), and that the love of money leads to many evils (1 Tim. 6:10); therefore, anyone who loves material things more than God is an idolater. Consequently, the second extreme believers must avoid is license, that is, using material things to pursue pleasure as an end in itself. Believers should gratefully enjoy God’s gifts but not to the point that one loves the gift more than the giver.

Calvin suggests that one way to avoid license is to remember that God created everything so that one may know God and feel gratitude for him. In other words, when one sees the beauty of a flower, he ought to think how wonderful and beautiful the God who created this must be.

Another rule Calvin gives is the believer should despise this life and aspire to the next life. Believers should view this life as a pilgrimage using its blessing as they assist us on the way to eternal life and avoiding those things which would hinder one’s heavenly pursuit. His point is that believers should hold loosely to their material blessings and possessions realizing they will not last forever (1 Corinthians 7:29-31) Believers like the Apostle Paul must learn to be content with a little and be moderate in prosperity (Phil. 4:12).

Believers must used their material blessings wisely and morally (1 Tim. 6:17-19). Hence, the reason Calvin says believers should remember that they are only stewards of the gifts of God and will be judged for their use of these gifts. One’s material goods should be used to meet the needs of his church (elders and missions), family (1 Tim. 5:8), those in need (Eph. 4:28), and government (Rom. 13:6, 7). Moreover, wealth is properly earned through hard work. Gambling and lotteries are not legitimate means to earn wealth. In addition, those who are capable of working must work to provide for themselves so that they do not burden the church or the government (1 Thess. 3:10, 12). Only those who are unable to care for themselves or are facing temporary misfortune should be cared for by the church or government (See 1 Tim. 5).

Enjoy life for the glory of God.

Pastor Jeremy Lee
Twining Baptist Church

[1] This is my adaptation from Calvin Institutes of the Christian Religion trans. Henry Beveridge (Hendrickson 2008) 3.10

1 comment:

Steve Milikech said...

Very good Message Jeremy.
Thanks, Ken