I have a problem.
You see, I’m blessed. Incredibly blessed. Unfathomably blessed. Cataclysmically blessed. God has showered me with 10,000 gifts, and he won’t stop pouring.
Don’t get me wrong; I have problems too. Challenges, hardships, heartaches, pain. I could fill another blog post with those. But right now I want to talk about the ocean of blessings that cascade around me every single day.
Like the brown slippers that keep my toes warm in Minnesota winter. Or the furnace that hums along and keeps the rest of me from freezing when Jack Frost assaults the upper Midwest.
Or like fish tacos. I really like fish tacos. With black bean salsa. And there are a number of establishments within a quick drive of my house that will provide me with fish tacos for a small fee.
Or bacon. I’m a big fan of bacon. On hamburgers, with eggs, or just thick-cut and ready to go. Also Chipotle burritos. And Pad Thai. And vanilla ice cream. And steak fajitas with lime. And remind me not to write blog posts before I have dinner.
Leave aside food for a minute. I have other blessings and gifts worth mentioning.
Like the ability to think, reason, discover, and remember. I have a functioning brain and (most of the time) I know how to use it. What’s more, people pay me to use it. I spend all day reading and thinking and then speaking what I’ve read and thought to other people, and because of this, they put money in my wallet (which I then use to purchase the aforementioned foodstuffs).
Like the good friends who are there for me in a pinch, who enjoy watching college football with me, who help me with home improvement projects, who share the same vision of God and life and ministry.
I could go on. I have a wonderful wife, two lively sons who have taught me the meaning of the term “delightful,” an automobile (two actually), a functioning endocrine system, the ability to play softball, a pillow for my head (two actually), a library full of books, and glasses that enable my nearsighted self to see. Oh and the sun rose on me today. Again.
You see my problem, don’t you? I’m surrounded by these…these…these things of earth. They encircle me on all sides. They fill me with great joy. They follow me day and night (it’s a bit creepy if you think about it). And the worst part of it is that I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with them.
Being a Christian, I naturally go to the Bible for help. But that just confuses me more. On the one hand, I read, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Col. 3:2). But then a few pages later, I’m told, “Everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving” (1 Tim. 4:4).
Or, I read that the enemies of the cross of Christ make their belly into their god (goodbye, bacon) and set their minds on earthly things (Phil. 3:18-19). But then one chapter later, I’m told that if anything is true, lovely, commendable, or praiseworthy, I should think about it (hello again, bacon; Phil. 4:8).
I even get confused within a single verse.
As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. (1 Tim. 6:17)
Rich in this present age? That’s me. Don’t set your hope on riches. Got it. Instead, set your hope on the God who richly provides you everything to enjoy. How is this possible? How can I enjoy everything God supplies without setting my mind and affections on the things of earth?
And so after all of this wrestling, I’m left here, living with a constant low-grade guilt because I don’t know if I love God’s gifts “too much” (or if I love God “enough”). I’m constantly confronted by the gifts, pleasures, and delights of earth, but I try to keep them at arms length. I hold them like a hot potato, lest they become too precious in my eyes. When it comes to the ocean of earthly pleasures, I do my best to stick to the shallows, but I sometimes find that I get swept into the deep end by a tickle fight with my boys or an evening out with my wife.
I feel stuck with these gifts. It’s like I can’t live with ‘em, and I can’t live without ‘em.
What am I going to do with the things of earth?