Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Too Pious to Party

In a dark world full of lost souls, starving children and unreached tribes should Christians feel guilty for celebrating and rejoicing? When the world is weeping should Christians be laughing? When the world is mourning should Christians be dancing? When the world is famished should Christians be feasting? Does physical happiness refute personal holiness? Does partying contradict piety? Many Christians are confused by these questions. They tend to feel guilty and ashamed when they compare what they have to what the lost do not. When they look out at the world and see pain, persecution and poverty they feel ashamed of their own health, liberty and wealth. What is a Christian to do?

This paragraph will most certainly end with the word "but..." Christians should have a heart for the lost. We should, like Jesus, look out on the crowds with eyes of compassion. We are to mourn with those who mourn and weep with those who weep. Jesus said when we give the hungry food and drink and when we welcome the stranger and clothe the naked and when we visit the sick and those in prison we do or don't do all those things to Him (Mt 25). God's Law tells us this: "For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’" (Duet. 15:11) We should always be proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom to the world. If we love Jesus we will feed His sheep. But...

There has always been lost souls in the world. There has always been poverty and suffering. God is sovereignly at work in history restoring what was lost at the fall. The kingdom of God is advancing and Christ will reign till all enemies are under His feet. Until it is all restored and Christ returns we will and always have had the lost, the dying, the sick, the poor and the persecuted in the world. In spite of the reality of sin in the world God wanted His people to celebrate. We don't have to, out of guilt or pity, wait till all is restored before we laugh and dance. There will always be plenty of reasons to mourn but there is also plenty of reasons to celebrate.

God's people Israel, in the Old Testament, were surrounded by pagan cultures. There was poverty, idolatry and suffering in those cultures. In that context look at what God commanded them to do: "...then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the Lord your God chooses and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household." (Duet 14:25-27) Douglas Jones and Douglas Wilson, in their book "Angels in the Architecture" sarcastically commented on this verse: "Such unthriftiness. Such waste. Such gluttony. Such winebibbing. Such is a command of our holy God."

They also wrote this:

  • Celebration is worshiping God with our bodies, with the material creation He has set up around us. Celebrating – whether in feasts, ceremonies, holidays, formal worship, or lovemaking –are all part of obeying God’s command to “love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy strength” (Duet 6:5; Mk 12:30) We are to show our love for God not just with one portion of our being (the spiritual aspect); we are to love God with our whole body, heart and strength and legs and lips.
  • Complaint is the flag of ingratitude, and it waives above the center of unbelieving hearts –“when they knew God, the glorified him not as God, neither were thankful” (Rom 1:21). Yet by grace, God’s redemption in creation ought to keep us in a perpetual state of thanks which bursts out in celebration at every opportunity. Again, we are celebrating God’s dominion...
There is indeed, in time and history, "a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance" (Ecc. 3:4) "The Lord makes poor and makes rich; He brings low and lifts up." (1 Sam 2:7) Let us celebrate the Lord. We must resist the gnostic tendency to separate the physical things into the category of evil and the spiritual things into the category of good. We serve a God who clothed Himself with human flesh and after He died His body was resurrected. “Asceticism” is the doctrine that a person can attain a high spiritual and moral state by practicing rigorous self-denial and extreme abstinence. The apostle Paul made it clear that asceticism was not the answer: "These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh." (Col 2:23)

Victorious kingdom living includes celebratory kingdom feasting and dancing. It is sin that causes us to forget our blessings and fail to celebrate them: "Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joy and gladness of heart, for the abundance of everything, therefore you shall serve your enemies, whom the Lord will send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in need of everything; and He will put a yoke of iron on your neck until He has destroyed you" (Duet. 28: 47-48). We Christians sometimes have such a hard time gratefully honoring God's blessings in celebration. Yes, we should not forget about the lost but we should also not forget to celebrate the fact that we've been found! Have we become too pious to party? "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Cor 10:31)


Destiny Jane said...

That's really good Uncle Kenny, and I really did read the WHOLE post!


Grandma of Many said...

Kenny - thanks for putting this post on. It shows that we need balance in our lives and that we need to glorify God in whatever state we are in. I appreciate you posting this. Love, Mom