Greed is subtle. It knows how to hide in our hearts, lurking in the shadows where it can destroy us, undetected. We should realize this, yet we don’t. Consider: Virtually everyone agrees that greed and materialism are real problems in the world. On top of that, Christians recognize that Jesus talked openly and often about greed, saying things like this to warn us against it: “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness” (Luke 12:15a). Yet virtually no one considers himself to be a greedy person. That doesn’t add up!
We should assume that greed is, or easily can be, a problem for us. And we should fight greed in our own lives. But how?
If, like a computer or smartphone, the human heart had an operating system, that operating system would run on self-justification. Self-justification is the default wiring of the human heart. We innately believe that we are, more or less, pretty good, and that our faults are, more or less, not that bad. While we are quick to point to the sins of others, we are slow to recognize our own. All of this is a reflection of our self-justifying ways.
One helpful way to diagnose this in your own life is to answer the question: why do I think God will answer my prayers? Any answer you give to that question reveals what you are looking to for justification. And every answer – save one – ultimately reveals self-justification.
Do not let your adorning be external – the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear – but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious (1 Peter 3:3-4).
Our culture tells us that if you want to win influence, external adornment is the key. This is why I don’t have to teach my six-year-old daughter to play “dress up.” She knows, instinctively, that there is value in external beauty. Our culture follows suit. In 2007, Americans spent $39 billion on cosmetic products. When we add cosmetic procedures to the mix, the math gets even crazier. While Americans account for only about 4% of the world’s population, we account for roughly 20% of the world’s cosmetic procedures. Clearly we’re eager, as a culture, to go under the knife or needle in our pursuit of external beauty. (more…)
Most of the world assumes that who we are flows out of what we do. We answer questions regarding our identity by describing our occupations, hobbies, interests, and skills. “I am a farmer.” Or, “I raised five children.” Or, “I am a student.” Building our identity in this way wreaks havoc in two ways, however. (more…)
You have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you. (1 Peter 1:23-25)
There are six people in my house. I don’t drink milk, because it’s gross. That leaves five milk consumers. Those five milk consumers go through, on average, four million gallons of milk per month. Or at least it seems like that. We buy milk every single time we go to the store, and still we run out every time before we get to the store again. No gallon of milk ever comes close to expiring in my fridge. Yet still, when we shop for milk, we try to find the “freshest” gallon we can – the gallon farthest from its expiration date. You do the same thing, I’m sure.
Deep inside each of us, we think that there is something about us that makes us acceptable to ourselves, to others, and to God. This is the reality of human nature. Perpetually, we rely upon some kind of spiritual resumé to make us worthy.
My daughter Elliot has fine blonde hair. Right now, it is quite long – and usually messy. When she goes to school or to church, her mom fixes it for her. But the rest of the time, she lets it go. It is always hanging down in her face or in her food.
Occasionally Elliot will take a balloon and rub it, hard and fast, against her shirt sleeve. Having done that, she’ll then take it and hold it beside her head, and all of her hair will immediately cling to that balloon. (more…)