I used to welcome destructive relationships into my life. They ran perpendicular to God’s word and nature and deep down, I knew it. Nevertheless, I invested myself in them heavily for years. How is it that I could love God deeply, serve him wholeheartedly and still commit myself to things that served as opposition forces?
I’m not speaking about human friendships. The associations I refer to, turned out to be more destructive in my life than any person could be, even though, in and of themselves, they weren’t evil. (Well, a couple were!) I squandered time, money and emotional energy on them consistently, resources God expected me to use for his kingdom. The King James Bible uses a strong term for them and calls these things “unfruitful works of darkness,” in Ephesians 5:11. That sounds harsh, but I want you to consider this truth. Anything that nudges Christ out of the center of your life’s throne, by default becomes an opposing force towards God.
“Whoa,” you say. “Sorry, you got messed up in bad stuff, Sharon, but that doesn’t describe me.” Oh? Are you sure? Developing affection for worldly pursuits can be a very subtle, gradual slide, especially if other believers are sliding with you. Allow me to pose some questions, not to attack you but perhaps to awaken you.
For decades, I’ve listened to church folk (and myself) criticize and complain about the immoral behaviors of their societies. Brothers and sisters, the decline of morality in any culture cannot be blamed on the unsaved. Lost people will behave like their master. The fault for moral decline lies entirely with the body of Christ inside any society. We are called the salt and light. So, let’s stop railing at the darkness for a moment and contemplate our own realities. Please, read on and be open to the possibility that like me, your lifestyle and habits might need a good dose of righteous cleansing.
Would you watch your current favorite shows with your Nana or your pastor on the couch? Would you be comfortable reading aloud to them from your current recreational reading books? I used to read tons of horror books that would have scared the soup out of my grandma, and don’t get me started on the list of dark movies and shows I used to watch regularly.
Does your checking account demonstrate faithful tithing to your local church? What about offerings for missionaries and folks in need? Here’s a nice piece of irony. For a few months in seminary preparing for ministry, Ken and I decided we didn’t have enough income to tithe. We did, however, find money to eat out and go shopping. Hmmmmm………
How much time do you spend on your appearance each morning compared to the time you spend in Bible study and prayer? I shudder to think of how long it took me to structure my large 80’s hairdo’s back in the day.
How much time do you commit to your church home or a parachurch organization in volunteer ministry compared to the time you invest in social media, video games, vacations, concerts or other entertainment? I’ve met so many people that tell me they don’t have the time to commit to a volunteer ministry, yet they still find space in their schedule for hours of entertainment pursuits, pictures of which they proudly post on social media.
Are the schedules in your home so full, that skipping church and sleeping in on Sunday mornings seems reasonable? This is a growing and disturbing phenomenon in the American church. When you’re on vacation on a Sunday, how do you honor God on his day? Whereas a generation ago there might have been too much legalism surrounding Sunday activities, I’m not so sure that we haven’t now overreacted and adopted the world’s mantra that “Sunday is Funday.”
Do family events, athletic practices, business meetings and such, take a higher priority in your schedule then participation in a small group Bible study, youth group, or attendance at a midweek service or children’s program? Another disturbing trend in the American church is the notion that Sunday morning worship attendance alone, checks all the boxes for being an engaged member of a local body of Christ.
Are your conversations with others wholesome and fruitful or are crude language, off-color stories, useless chatter, gossip or negativity a regular part of some of your relationships? How much would our words change if we understood the truth that God listens to his children intently, like every minute of every day?
In the next few posts, I want to challenge you to examine how you are using every resource God’s entrusted to you. How much resource might we be unintentionally committing to “unfruitful deeds?” Let me end this post with a familiar parable. It’s long, but please read it with an open mind. It puts a holy fear in me and I hope it does in you too.
“Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last- dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.
The servant who received the five bags began to invest the money and earned five more. The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money.
After a long time, their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’ The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’
The servant who had received the two bags of silver came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two bags of silver to invest, and I have earned two more.’ The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’
Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’ Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 25 NLT