Love people. Use stuff. Not the other way around.
In late August, Hurricane Harvey, buried much of the city of Houston with disastrous flooding. In a matter of just four days, many areas saw more than 40 inches of rain. The resulting floods inundated hundreds of thousands of homes, displaced more than 30,000 people, and prompted more than 17,000 rescues. Harvey is blamed for 90 deaths in the U.S. and nearly $200 billion in damage.
In the wake of disaster in Houston, I saw an interview with a man that showed up with his boat to help rescue those caught in the floods. The reporter asked him why he was volunteering his time to help. He said, "I come from a time when people loved people and used things. Nowadays, it seems everybody loves things and uses people."
That statement really caught my attention. Isn't that how we should live our lives? Love people. Use stuff. But how often do we live that way?
Here's the reality: We get so caught up in focusing on ourselves, we often have no time for others. This is, fundamentally, the exact opposite of how we should act as Christians. The very essence of the gospel is flipped on it’s head.
Just last week, the Powerball jackpot reached $750 million dollars. The state line was packed with folks buying their tickets. The story was our lead that night on the news. I went out and asked people on the street, what they would do with all that money. Invest, quit my job, buy stuff were all common answers. (To be fair, I did have a couple of people that talked about helping others with the money.)
Here’s the point: It’s fun to think about having stuff. But, have you noticed the more we have the more stress and worry that comes along with it?
We lock our doors. We get alarm systems. We take out insurance.
If we are focused on things, we will never have enough. We end up worshiping the created rather than the creator.
Paul gives the Romans a strong warning about that in Romans 1:24-25, "Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen."
When it comes down to it, God gives us exactly what we want. In the text, He does not merely stand back and watch as they run off after idols, but He hands them over to their false worship. When human beings refuse to love the one true God, He will confirm them in their sin.
“Religious honor cannot be given to a creature, without taking it away, in a disgraceful and sacrilegious manner, from God.” –John Calvin
When we choose to love things, we are handing ourselves over to them, not God. And if we will not have God, he will not have us. You cannot persist in impenitent sin and in giving to other creatures the devotion God deserves. When you do, you become even more entangled in idolatry and grow more blind to the truth.