Thursday, 15 October 2009

The ugliness of idols

Searching through a 'Christian' publisher / distributor's website, for work, I came across this:

A comprehensive guide to safeguard your livelihood, income, and standard of living through the ups and downs of any economy. Middle Class Lifeboat is a guide to living a more stress-free lifestyle.

And I was horrified. That is supposed to be Christian? Since when did Christ die to procure for his followers a safe, comfortable lifestyle, free from stress? What an idol! I felt slightly ill.

And then it hit me: on that book, it might be writ large for all to see its ugliness, but that's what my heart so often wants. A nice, middle-class lifestyle. I know the Christian life is the way of the cross; I know it's service of others; I know love is costly. But somehow my heart, left to itself without constant doctoring by brothers & sisters wielding the Word, will veer towards this idol. The advantage of such a book is to show how ugly and un-true this aspiration is.

I have better things at which to aim:
For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

That I may know Christ, and the power of his resurrection, and may share in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death [Phil. 3]


RobHu said...

Is the Christian life incompatible with a relatively stress-free middle class life?

étrangère said...

We're called to go the way of the cross. Stress happens when you're pulled in varying directions - if there's not some stress, I'd be concerned that we're merrily going the way of the world. There's a right stress which comes from caring for others, bearing their burdens, etc. Jesus' yoke is easy and his burden light, but he is also the one who bids us come and die. A stress-free middle class life may in some respects look like a gospel-driven life, but it's going to have different motivations, priorities and ultimate goals. So don't get me wrong: it may be that a gospel-motivated family has what looks like a middle class life (though I've met very few Christians without significant trials within that), but the distortion is with aiming at that. To make a stress-free middle class life your aim suggests that this life is ultimate: it isn't.

It's like Piper's IVP book on marriage, This Momentary Marriage: you may have a wonderful (middle class?!) marriage, but don't make that your ultimate aim. Your ultimate aim is to show forth the beauty of Christ and his church and to enjoy him forever - marriage is a means (a wonderful, gracious means) to that more ultimate end. So it is not wrong to have a wonderful marriage (or a middle class lifestyle), but there's something short-sighted and blinkered about making that an ultimate aim.

Or more personally put, I find it easy enough to be focussed on myself & comfort, without having someone else tell me how. I need the Word to motivate me to love, self-sacrificial joyful service, a regard for the suffering church, etc.

Do you think that's fair to Scripture?