Feb 17 by Tony Dibble-
James warns us that our life is like a vapour that could disappear in a moment (Jas 4:14).Christ said that He was the Way, the Truth and the Life (Jn 14:6); we had to, as a consequence, “hate” the life in this world (Jn 12:25).This meant that we should not be caught up with the physical life in this world but to live in Christ. The Preacher in Ecclesiastes said that GOD made man specific but man creates variations (Ecc 7:29).
Matthew 6:19-34 records another of Christ’s many instructions about life. He says that heaven should be where our “treasure” is and not the earth. Anything stored on earth would be ruined. He then warns us that the eye is the lamp of the body. If we cast it around carelessly, it is only going to increase our bodily lusts. Our service is either to GOD or to Mammon, the god of riches. The remaining half of that passage is Christ telling us not to worry about food, clothing and the future as GOD takes care of us. This is the Who, What and Where of our physical life.
The Book of Ecclesiastes is the Preacher’s survey of this life. His view was that in this life, all was vanity, a waste of effort (Ecc 2;11). He concluded that we should fear GOD and follow His commands (Ecc 12:13). Richard Foster gives us practical guidelines on dealing with certain desires that obstruct our spiritual life. St Augustine of Hippo’s call to love GOD and then to do as we please is equally true: once we fully love GOD, all else will follow from that love.
The three drives in mankind are:
- to acquire as many things as possible (the acquisitive spirit);
- to compare assets and achievements in order to impress one another (the comparative tendency);
- to defeat or humiliate the dignity of others (the competitive spirit).
If not carefully managed, these instincts can give rise to covetousness.
We should generally buy things only if they are necessary. Buying to impress people is foolishness. We should not be addicted to anything and should avoid buying things on impulse. A shopping list done in advance can avoid this. Brands attempt to obtain repeat customers with their frequent variations to their products: brand loyalty is expensive.
High–pressure selling must be kept under control. The best approach would be to postpone a purchase and put it to prayer. The test of seeing whether we are addicted to something is to see if we can do without it for a number of days. Furniture, hobbies and crockery are common areas where, over time, our purchases may appear unduly excessive.
We should be cautious about shopping and be in control of our desire for things. Malls are brightly lit and have no clocks in order to encourage shoppers to feel confident and relaxed. Some malls spray scents through their ventilation systems to give that “feel good” sensation. This may cause people to fall into buying something new.
Gourmet or “good” food is an area for restraint; for otherwise a person’s long-term health would be at stake. Food is the world’s greatest attraction, even before clothes, in any culture. Eating out may be a regular past-time for many. Excessive sugar and high-levels of artificial seasoning are common in most popular food outlets. Gluttony is a sin. Giving in to the lust for exotic dishes may be a path to long-term medical complications.
We should master technology and not let technology master us. Mobiles, electronic equipment and cars for instance, must be truly beneficial rather than be repurchased just because of the latest state-of-the-art features (which we may not require).
Movies, DVDS, and television should be subjected to a maximum quota of weekly or daily hours for viewing. These are passing off violence, lust and covetousness to us unconsciously and they impose concealed deep-seated lusts in our spirits. On-line networking must also be self-controlled.
We should give away things if, after a reasonable period of time we do not use them, donating these to charity associations. Items that we do not use after a long time may not really be needed by us.
Enjoy things available to the public which we do not need to spend money for. Publicly-accessible assets such as libraries, art galleries, museums, seaside resorts and parks are in this category. Domestic holidays are to be selected more frequently than overseas tours.
We should ensure that our purchases do not exploit people. Avoid anything at a price that imposes a great loss on people who are forced to sell an asset because of their debt. Similarly, we do not bargain with villagers selling handicrafts and fresh food as their livelihood is involved. We would not dream of bargaining in a supermarket.
Moderation and balance are required in the pursuit of our physical life. Some individuality may be exercised with choices but we must not get overboard. We are in the world, but as Christ said, not of the world (John 15:19).Therefore we should not over-indulge in our physical life which is temporary, and where its assets would deteriorate. We must be able to live as though we can “avoid’ this life, if necessary. That is because we live in Christ (John 15:5) and our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19).
Note: Tony Dibble worships at Endeavour Christian Gathering in Mullaloo Perth, Australia for about 7 years. Prior to this, he was at Church of Our Holy Saviour, Labuan, East Malaysia. When he is in Kuala Lumpur, he now worships at Faith Oasis Fellowship Subang Jaya, Selangor.
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