Are Christians Free to Enjoy the Things of Earth?

A Tension

There is a tension in the Christian life for those of us who embrace that God calls us to a single-minded devotion to him. We believe and embrace that God is supreme in all things, that our deepest joy is found in him alone. And God has surrounded us with wonderful, beautiful, enjoyable, and delightful things—people, hobbies, and everything else. There is a tension of how do I bring this single-minded pursuit of God in relation to all the stuff. There are two dangers that we can fall into: idolatry and ingratitude.

Idolatry is when we feel that the things of earth are too precious to us, we love them too much. We don’t know what too much means but we love them too much and so we’re worried about idolatry.

The created world reveals. It makes invisible attributes visible. The heavens declare the glory of God.

On the other hand, we can be ungrateful. In order to avoid the idolatry danger, we keep things of earth at an arm’s length. We just kind of stiff-arm them a little bit because we don’t want them to become too precious to us. We don’t want them to distract us and so we thin out creation in a pious desire to seek the glory of God alone or above all things. As a result, God’s trying to give us things, he’s being generous and open-handed and we’re saying No, stop.

That’s the tension that most Christians feel and it comes from the fact that we're separating the gifts of God from God by putting him on one side of the scales and all of the good things in our lives on the other side, saying let’s see which one of those is more valuable and more precious.

Knowing God through His Gifts

If you do that, the only biblically right answer is God is. Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also. I’ve got God and that’s enough. Everything else is loss compared to him.

That’s a comparative way of thinking about God's relation to his gifts, but it’s not the only way. I think this is what many Christians can miss. Don't just think of them as a zero-sum game of either this or this because these things are actually designed to lead us to God.

It’s through the gifts that we come to know him more fully. That’s what might be called an integrated approach—where we’re enjoying everything in God and we’re enjoying God in everything because everything is a revelation, manifestation, expression, declaration of who he is, what he’s like. The created world reveals. It makes invisible attributes visible. The heavens declare the glory of God.

For His Sake

We can find God everywhere, and if we do that, then all of reality becomes an invitation. Everything in reality from our family to our food to our hobbies to the natural world—all of it is God saying, Come, know me in very deep and real way, because you’ve known the things that I’ve made.

That comparative approach is valuable. It must be done. We have to say, Whom have I in heaven but you? On earth there's nothing I desire besides you. Then having done that, having established deep in our soul that God is supreme, we love him above all. Then, we recover and he gives them back to us and says, “Now enjoy them for my sake.”

That’s a wonderful biblical balance between comparing God and his creation and then enjoying his creation for his sake.

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