Our gods, the ones we spend most of our time trying to satisfy, keep us tied up. Our lives are busy with other stuff, often without heeding the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We're on autopilot.
Wealth, health, reputation, and safety consume the attention that God deserves. They win us over before the real God even gets a say-so regarding our time, energy, and goals.
Image by Tuan Hung Nguyen
By John Pearring
Today's readings should shake us awake. I doubt, though, if any of us recognize that we're being shaken at all. On the surface, the readings from Deuteronomy and 2 Corinthians sound good. Isn't this just too much to absorb? Take a listen:
"He is to be your God, and you are to walk in his ways and observe his statutes, commandments and decrees, and to hearken to his voice."
This verse represents the problem with scripture and our distracted brains. There's a logic offering us a teaching that's simply beyond our capabilities. The scripture and our brain functions don't line up. Biblical teachings clash with almost every way we communicate and understand things. We are to "walk in his ways," "observe" dictums of various kinds, and "hearken to his voice." Chew gum, walk and pay attention at the same time.
"Be your God," for instance, sounds pretty important. Of course, we think that God is our God. We do that, don't we? It's almost too obvious.
Read several chapters back and forward in Deuteronomy, noting the repeated notion of walking in his ways and observing his teachings. They add up to a litany of impossibilities. To hearken (hear and follow his voice) sounds like good advice. How many of us, though, hear God's voice throughout the day, much less are agreeable at every turn if we do hear him speak to us?
Our gods, the ones we spend most of our time trying to satisfy, keep us tied up. Our lives are busy with other stuff, often without heeding the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We're on autopilot. None of us like to admit it, but out of the following five major god-like controls over us, you may be like me. Three of these win me over before the real God even gets a say-so regarding my time, energy, and goals:
I may have left out one of the other 100 elevated controls that supersedes God in our lives.
Here's the clue to engaging the teaching in these verses with our daily life. The God of the Trinity provides everything, including wealth, things, etc. We aren't meant to abandon essential aspects of life to heed God. We can't ignore our health, safety, and all the appliances, clothing, and tools we use. The Amish may have figured out a practical way to simplify their lives, but they're no less dependent on devices and physical maintenance just like us. What is God saying, then? That everything in our lives is subservient to his presence. His presence all the time, by the way.
The emphasis in today's readings, the superimposition of God over the stuff of our lives, comes out something like this:
God gives us wealth — or keeps it at bay — for his glory and our part in cooperating with his plans.
That rephrasing eliminates the god-like ambitions and ultimate obsession over how most of us encounter wealth or are refused access to it. Wealth's power is no more valuable than a lawnmower.
While we train for high-paying jobs and excel at production in our work, God is the one who presents an opportunity and also allows us to face difficulties. Money, fame, and reputation aren't what motivate us. It's all about God. Even inheritances and unexpected "winnings" fall under God's purview. We "walk in his ways" when we grasp that he's with us in all that we experience.
The same holds for every other ambition and obsession in our life.
If we live long enough, the eventual deterioration of our health and the painful consequences of disease and physical damage also bring opportunities and challenges in life. You can rephrase any of the "gods" that absorb your day in this way. God will use both our good and bad health (money, reputation, safety, etc.) to his advantage. He's incredible that way.
Safety is one of the significant issues which overwhelms our focus. Consider the war in Ukraine. Much of Ukraine's population is deeply religious. They didn't ask for the atrocities and heinous destructions from this one dictator's evil propensities. People are dying and killing, suffering beyond anyone's idea of acceptable behavior. God knows this is going on, for goodness sake. He is presenting opportunities to the world by allowing this invasion to proceed.
Who isn't dumbfounded by such unwarranted aggression? We are no less than God in this. As we pray for his intervention, we must keep our eyes upon the changes in societies, governments, and international relationships that God is reframing. He is doing that. We can be confident. What does this mean for us? No one can tell you. They can tell you where and when God is leading them, though.
The difficulty of a healthy relationship to God stands out from both readings. Until we believe God is actively engaging us every minute of every day, most of the scriptures sound like gobbledygook, a word salad of aphorisms and aspirations.
Consider, however, that this scripture we read above, dictated by Moses to the Hebrew people almost four thousand years ago, is a template for all followers and believers in God. Christianity is included in the outcome of what God identifies in this ancient text:
"And today the LORD has accepted your agreement: you will be a people specially his own, as he promised you, you will keep all his commandments, and he will set you high in praise and renown and glory above all nations he has made, and you will be a people holy to the LORD, your God, as he promised."
Of course, these verses refer to the rise of the Israelites under David and Solomon. "He is to be your God" still sings to us that other gods should not usurp the primary being in both creation and heaven.
While horror, decay, failure, and all other evils rain down upon the world, and the tiny spaces that we all inhabit, know that God has promised us praise for our faithfulness to him, renown among the heaven's angels and saints, and a sure inclusion month the holy people he loves. That's his promise.
Even as we are confused by our human systems of logic and success, emotional wailings, and horrific worries, know that God has this in hand. He has small, seemingly ineffectual tasks for us to perform. We can only know them by walking with him, listening to him, and stepping where he wants us to go.