What we value can most often be seen in what we give our time to. If I give my time to it, I value it, and if I do not give my time to it, I do not value it. It is really quite simple in the end, as what we value we invest in. For example, I value my job. I may not love my job, nor do I wake up every morning eager to get to work at my job. But I value it, in as much as I make myself take time to do my job. 40 hours of investment in something that pays the bills, sustains my family’s welfare and maintains a consistent source of income for whatever may come my way. I may not love doing it, but I value it intentionally, so as to meet certain obligations in my life.
Using this example, let’s apply the same logic to another question: How much do I value God? One may well say “I value Him with my whole heart!” But then comes the brutal realization, how much of my heart do I invest in Him every day? How many of us, in all actuality, value our jobs more than our Lord? It is not so much a matter of “How much are you willing to invest in Him?” as much as it is “How much do you actually invest in Him each day?” This paints an entirely different picture of how the average Christian values God, especially in light of the fact that most Christians prefer to spend their time and efforts on things other than God. Oh sure, they will maintain a consistent thought of God, and count that as acknowledgement of Him, which equates in their minds to worship. And yet their actual labor and time is invested in other things, such as their job, friends, family, hobbies and so on. This therefore makes very clear the brutal reality that most of us do not value God as much as we should, regardless of what we are willing to do.
And I think this is particularly evidenced in a very simple aspect of Christian living: Most Christians claim they are willing to give their life for the sake of Christ, but very, very few of them are willing to sacrifice their convenience to hear His Word each week at church. Yes, they are more than willing to burn at the stake for Him! But never ask them to come to the same church, week in and week out, for many years consistently, and don’t you once think for a second that they’ll come more than twice a week. They will gladly memorize a few verses of His Word, but will fall asleep at the sound of its meaning. This then becomes a reflection of how Christians would respond in times of true suffering and hardship. Would they give their life for Christ? Not the One found in the Bible. They would more than happily give their lives for a god who fits their requirements however, just as much as they give their time to a god that fits their schedules and priorities. They will not care for a God who saves them for the purpose of learning His Word and applying it through good works. Rather, they prefer a god who encourages them to spend more time with family, or a god who waves the American flag and leads them to the boycott of products and mockery of sinners, rather than the God who tells us this:
“For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.” – 1 Corinthians 9:19-23
They would rather Paul forsake those rebellious Jews and wave the Christian flag, telling us to avoid anything made by the Jews of Jerusalem and never let them take our property, contrary to the response of the Hebrews themselves (Heb. 10:34). They would not have told the churches to submit to their authorities (Rom. 13), but rather to rise against Nero (who was a very wicked man), and replace him with someone who would make sure Christianity was accepted as the religion of Rome. Paul would have been thrown out and replaced with the “super apostles” just like he was in his own time. Peter would carry two swords, and use them liberally on the Pharisees so as to ensure the progression of the church. And in our own day, the priority of the Word of God and His church have become so minuscule and underrated that any church to gain an attendance is practically required to appeal to so many people, that it has no specific statement of faith and very little doctrinal teaching, save for that which applies to the here and now. If a preacher is not telling how to live in regards to your job, or troubled marriage or contentious family, then he is irrelevant and good for nothing. Perish the thought that he might only preach the Word of God as it was given to us! It needs to be molded to our everyday lives, and become a self-help guidebook of relationships and everyday worries. And should the preacher remain faithful to the actual context of the Bible, he is yawned out of the church by those who hardly hear what he says.
And so is the church today. A gathering of half-hearted Christians-in-name-only (CINOs?), reaping only what is deemed acceptable for today by today. And I have felt this frustration gathering more and more as I reevaluate my own life, seeing what I prioritize and what I truly value. I have sat down and tried to narrow down what it is that I am trying to do with my life, and have found it rather vague, to be quite honest. If we stop and look at our belongings, what do we see? A big TV for sports, movies or games? A large kitchen for cooking? A good car for going to work? A phone to take pictures and keep up to date through social media? All well and good I suppose, but what do these reflect of us? I suppose I have to ask myself every once in a while, “Where is my Bible?” Not that I have lost it, but rather “Have I been using it?” And no, I do not mean “reading” it, I mean using it. What good is it, truly, to my everyday life? Do I invest my time and effort into it? You see, I have found that our consistency in going to church and actually participating in it is a direct reflection of our weekday priortities. If I go to church now and then, and take long breaks, then I can almost guarantee that I do the same with the Bible. Sure, I might read it now and then, and once in a long time I might study a text. But I don’t do this on a consistent basis long enough to call it a “hobby” even, and I will most certainly take a very long break from it quite frequently. I will make sure that when I do find myself in it, I am very sincere and it is very impactful. Just not quite impactful enough to keep me coming back, of course. And likewise, church is of little real use to us. It is a great social event I suppose, where we meet likeminded people, and maybe (if the pastor is feeling a bit topical) we’ll get something useful out of it, or some excitement, should someone stir the pot. But it is not enough to keep one coming back, week after week, gaining anything more than they already had. And so the Christian life becomes a small accessory (albeit necessary by some standard). And should something get in the way (like a storm on Sunday morning), we have a perfectly valid excuse to avoid it altogether. Perish the thought that we might risk ourselves going to church! But then… how is it would we risk our lives for Christ? In the early church, they were risking their lives just going to church, and people still do this today in nations less tolerating of our own towards the Faith.
And here we find my point in this whole thing: If we really valued God, we would value His Word. And if we really value His Word, we will invest in it, both time and effort. Not just reading it for the sake of checking off a box, but actually studying it mentally to understand what it says, for the very purpose that we might do it! Sure, we might keep the commands of God without thinking about it, or without even knowing God says to do it, but just because a blind squirrel comes across a nut, this does not mean it can now see. It means that God is gracious enough to give us a reminder as to where the true Truth lies- His Word! And so we work backwards: If I do not invest time and effort into God’s Word, I do not value His Word, nor do I value Him, which makes very evident that we are liars and hypocrites, just like the Scribes and Pharisees. We claim to love Him, and yet do not do what He says. And the only way to know what He says is to read and understand what He actually said! Something so small and simple, and yet so clearly lacking in the church today.
If I write a blog post about how to love other people better based on my own experience, people will read it. And if I write a series of posts about Paul’s letters Timothy, the only people who come across it are linked to Russian spam sites. I know this for a fact, as I can track which posts gain views from which people. Should I write something controversial, such as about a prosperity gospel preacher, or the subject of depression, it will garner views and comments and attention! This of course revealing that people value controversy and small, practical matters, not Biblical exposition. And when I write things people disagree with, how do they respond? With the Scripture? Of course not. I cannot tell you the last time someone disagreed with me, and used specific Biblical references to counter my point. On the contrary, they throw up their hands and become immediately offended, and any response is nothing more than an opinion, which (to be blunt) is something I don’t care to hear, as it is based on an emotional or circumstantial response. We get plenty of those already (i.e. the Hillary Clinton supporters who needed time off from college for the emotional trauma). But in the things of God? Such a response is baseless and unchristian, and people really should know better than to counter one person’s view of Scripture with nothing more than an emotionally charged opinion, as such a response is no better in quality than that of an atheist. And people’s attendance at church reflects this. Quite honestly, I believe that some people do not come, not because they can’t get there, but because they fear they might get stuck there. And woe to the one who is stuck in a building full of Christians!
“But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith. But they will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all, just as Jannes’s and Jambres’s folly was also.” – 2 Timothy 3:1-10