I love songs like the one below by House of Heroes, calling out us Americans and the dreams we pursue, ignoring whether or not the end goal is really worth all the struggle. In the end, we do something we hate for half our lives to afford certain comforts that we believe most Americans should have and enjoy. "The pursuit of happiness" you might call it. Is it freedom, or a form of slavery?
But I say, "No way!" Comfort is the enemy! The problem is, that's an easy thing to say when I'm comfortable...
And here comes the trouble: my wife and I are about to head into a season of cutting back, and I've found myself lamenting the soon-to-be lost aspects of our lives that I enjoy, most of which are comforts. Eating out, buying random things we want, little trips around town. Expenses such as these will all be weighed for their worth before any hard-earned money is spent, and you know what? I don't like it.
It feels good buy two pairs of shoes to get the free shipping, when I only need one. I like being able to eat out with friends instead of eating at home beforehand to save money. I want to be able to buy CDs whenever I hear a band I like (yeah, I still buy CDs). All of it just feels...free?
But isn't the comfort trap just that...a trap? Or could it be that a plush-lined trap with an all-you-can-eat buffet and high-speed internet isn't such a bad trap to be in? Is it possible that the thing I just a few moments ago called slavery is now, to me, freedom?
What does scripture say about this?
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. (1 Timothy 6:17-18)
Those who trust in their riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf. (Proverbs 11:28)
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)
I've been reading through the Old Testament though, and God, over and over again, blesses the Hebrew patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob) financially. And later, God tells us to meditate on His word, so that we may "be prosperous and successful." (Joshua 1:8) So money can't be all that bad, right?
But in most instances of the patriarchs, their blessing is accompanied by worship (building an altar, obedience, faith). When God tells Joshua he will be be prosperous and successful, it is preceded by, "As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you." (Joshua 1:5b), and followed up with, "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9b). It seems that God may be most interested in our hearts -- in our love relationship with Him.
And so in this instance, where my desire is for comfort, things and money, I must remember that God cares most about my heart, and so should I.
In the account of Jesus' interaction with a rich young man who came to Him asking what he needed to do to enter the kingdom of God, Mark says, "Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, 'You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.'" (Mark 10:21) A lot of people take this verse as proof that we should all sell everything we have to follow Jesus, and maybe that's the case for many of us, but in this instance I believe Jesus' call wasn't to all believes necessarily, but to this man specifically. The rich man's heart was on his wealth, and Jesus revealed this to him when he told him to give it all away, and his response was negative. "Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions." (Mark 10:22)
So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:31-33)
I quote that verse more than any other on this blog, but it often sums up what I think God wants us to do when it comes to money: trust Him. But it's difficult to trust someone you don't know, right?
So when my heart longs for comfort and money, it doesn't mean those things are necessarily bad, but my longing needs to be for God, for a love relationship with Him, because that's what He ultimately wants, and what I ultimately need. If I find myself concerned at the lack of comfort, trust God that He gives me what I need and also blesses me. If I find myself blessed, praise God in worship, for He is the one who blesses. If I find myself lacking (not in what I need, but what I want), praise God also, because I have what I need and am not receiving something I don't.
If I heed Jesus' command and seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, in poverty or riches, I will satisfy the deepest longings of my heart, where the fleeting comforts of this world will fall short in comparison to the warmth, safety, peace, joy, satisfaction, fulfillment and excitement of an honest and true relationship with our Creator. It is a comfort that cannot be taken, and will last forever.