Why is it that we are so prone to settle for less when we have the option for more? I don’t mean that we spend less, when we should spend more, or think we should acquire less when we deserve more. Far from that. In so many scenarios we end up choosing the second or third or even fifth best option. Think about what we choose to eat, or how we choose to use our time, or one of the biggest things, how we choose to spend our money. We know there’s a better way, yet we often opt for less.
My Dad was trained as a cabinet maker and always had this thing about buying ‘good’ furniture. He would go without a certain piece of furniture for months if it meant that he could have the right piece and the best quality. Why? He knew the difference. He knew that some furniture wasn’t worth the ‘better price’. He didn’t want to settle for less.
In Chapter 17 of Acts, Paul discovers a city (Athens) that is full of idols. We read that this distressed him – it concerned him. Why? We don’t walk downtown and get saddened by what we see? We normally take in the sights, find a great place to eat, and enjoy an evening out. What Paul found was overwhelming: A city that made gods like we make food. They turned them over like an assembly line. Gold, Silver, Stone, Shrines, Temples, Statues, etc. This hurt Paul at the core because his faith in Jesus is founded on a God who is jealous.
How does that make you feel? That God is jealous? The language we find in the OT is clear and wonderful. God wants us to worship Him alone. Exodus 20&32, Psalm 86, Leviticus 26, and other places in the scripture show us that God wants our full attention. The language of covenant is prominent in the Scriptures. Relationship language. When Israel was fooling around with other nations and other gods, God/Yahweh, was not just disappointed, but hurt. When asked what the most important commandment is, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy for 1/2 of his answer. “Hear O Israel, the Lord your God is ONE. Love him with all your heart, mind, soul and strength.”
You can see why Paul is concerned about this city: He knows that they are settling for less than what God has for them. They have settled for ‘g’ods they’ve created. He wants to introduce them to a God who created each and everyone of them (and us).
What are our gods today? In 2014? Just like in first century Athens, we have lots of options at our disposal, most of which we’ve created ourselves, or at least chosen to turn into a ‘g’od for our pleasure.
Tim Keller says that idolatry is taking some ‘incomplete’ joy and building your life around it. We start with good intentions, around things that are essentially good or neutral and we turn them into idols that we value more than, you got it, God.
Three of the biggest that grab our attention are Love, Money & Stuff.
Out of those, let’s just quickly talk about Money. We would be lying to ourselves if we said that we’ve never been tempted to elevate money to a ‘godly’ status. We don’t think of ourselves as greedy, only others. Jesus, when warning about not having two masters gets right to the point by saying, “You cannot serve both God and money” (Luke 16:13) He could’ve used any other ‘g’od metaphor, instead he used money. It’s our biggest distraction, always has been, always will be. One reason is because we never feel like we have enough of it. Let’s be clear, money isn’t bad, neither is love, and sex, and stuff. However, when it takes the place of God and when we settle for the feelings we get from those things, we are actually replacing God.
Here’s the lie: We don’t need anything when we have Money, Love & Stuff. But that is when we need God even more.
Ask yourself this: Do you trust God more or do you trust those other things more? Put it this way, what do you think you need to live well, Money, Love, Stuff or God?
The answer is this: When you love God more, you love others more. When God is who you trust, the other things fall into their proper place. When God is at the centre, the other things can be viewed in a healthy way. If God fulfills you more than anything, you’ll enjoy the other things properly.
So don’t settle for silver…or gold…or stuff…or ___________. Fill the longing in you with the one and only – GOD.