Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Being Rich Towards God

At Space For God on Sunday night we discussed what it might mean to be rich towards God. In a sense this is quite ironic because I'm not really feeling particularly wealthy as I write this article. Perhaps this is partly due to lack of sleep and partly due to anxiety over my final few College of Law exams, but at the back of my mind there is also this feeling of unworthiness and illegitimacy about my walk as a disciple of Christ. At the moment I don't really feel that I have a lot to offer God and this is currently manifesting itself in a real sense of writer's block. God only knows what I will write.

I guess my first impression is that it is very easy to fool ourselves into believing that we are being rich towards God. We often believe that saying, believing or doing the right kinds of things is a substitute for real spirituality. We might go to church, perform religious rituals or volunteer for church project in the mistaken belief that these things of our own accord make us more committed to God. Perhaps we might pray, read our Bible or dedicate our lives to helping the poor with the same intention, only to be disappointed. While these things may be helpful spiritual disciplines, they do not in themselves guarantee a life in which we have drawn close to God. This reminds me of the following passage:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. - 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

I understand this passage as saying that it not through being religious that we are rich towards God, nor by knowing great and profound things about Him, nor by having great faith, nor by doing great deeds. It is through having great love, which will manifest itself both in our devotion to Him. As Jesus points out, whatever we do for the least of His brothers or sisters we also do for him (Matthew 25:40), so to be rich towards others is to be rich towards Him. Indeed our love towards others should be the natural outworking of our love towards Jesus. As John points out, it is impossible for us to hate our brother or sisters and yet love God (1 John 4:20).

A rich faith as I understand it, is a holistic faith. It isn't a faith that clocks in just before church starts and clocks out just after church finishes - it should be a part of our everyday life. It is not just a Sunday thing. Being rich towards God is not merely something we are doing during explicitly religious activities - we can be rich towards God in the more mundane pursuits of everyday life. Indeed, I truly believe that this is when the true extent of our richness towards God is most clearly highlighted.

Finally, being rich towards God means giving our whole selves over to Him. This may mean being honest about our weaknesses, our doubts and our fears. It is precisely in these dark places that true redemption can take place. And it is only when we are truly weak that we can be of any use to God. To illustrate this point beautifully, I shall conclude with one of my favourite Kierkegaard quotes:

Confess your weakness and face it. Perhaps just in this weakness God will meet you and come to your aid. This much is certain: the greatest thing each person can do is to give himself to God utterly and unconditionally – weaknesses, fears, and all. For God loves obedience more than good intentions or second-best offerings, which are all too often made under the guise of weakness.


emblazoned said...

I find it therapeutic that you never even mentioned that being rich toward God means being rich in worldly wealth...in some circels taught as a a sign of God's blessing.

Dr. Chaotica said...

I thought that committing genocide in the holy land was the one true sign of Gods blessing. Or at least that always seemed to be the message of joshua....