I was at a gathering of people who had lot of wealth. Where and when is not important. Let me simply say that it would incorrect to speak about a Lexus in the parking lot; there were Lexi in the parking lot. Women were dressed to nines; the men were thin. Everyone looked perfect. I felt out of place.
Most of the people in the gathering professed faith in Jesus. They belonged to churches and attended when they could. The conversation at the gathering made references to Jesus, to God’s blessings, and to the sorry state of the government.
Jesus once said it was harder for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. I get the analogy. When you live in luxury it is hard to be humble. Sometimes, in my cynicism, I wonder if the ultra-rich would still follow Jesus if said, “Go, sell your Lexus, give the money to the poor, and come and follow me.”
It’s fun to be self-righteous. It’s also dangerous. Nothing attracts the attention of the God like the piety of a person who condemns someone else’s externals without first examining the forest of sin in his or her own life. In that moment of spiritual pride, a thought from God entered my heart: “So Clay, if I ask you to give up your truck with heated leather seats and give the money to the poor, would you?”
Ouch. The voice of God in my soul can bring troubling conviction. If I am not walking with Jesus, I can begin to think I deserve all God lets me enjoy. This is the temptation of blessing: believing God owes me something because I have been so good.
If you live this way, believe you deserve the blessings of God, Jesus said you will lose something. You might gain the whole world, but you will lose your soul. I don’t think Jesus was thinking just of heaven and hell when he said this; he meant you would lose yourself. Think about it: have you ever heard a story about a person who made it big in their career and made a wreck of their home? Or maybe they made a wreck of their lives with an addiction? The track record of human beings staying healthy while successful is not good.
Caroline Mahendran was teaching children in the Sunday School of Zion Church on Easter Sunday. If you have never taught children in Sunday School, you have no appreciation of the peace of heaven. One of the tried and true methods of holding children’s attention is asking them a question that requires a mass response. Simple “yes” or “no” questions are usually the best.
Since it was Easter, Caroline taught the children about the Cross of Jesus and the Resurrection of Jesus. She spoke about Jesus’ great sacrifice for us and how he deserved our total loyalty. She asked the class of twenty-four if they would die for Jesus, “Yes!” they shouted.
Fifteen minutes later, as these children were in the sanctuary, waiting for Easter worship services to begin, a suicide bomber entered, detonated his bomb, killing himself and twenty-eight other people. Twelve of the dead were children, the same children who declared moments earlier they would die for Jesus. Zion Church is in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka, where almost 300 people died in Easter Sunday bombings.
Arasaratnam Verl lost his only child, V. Jackson. His oldest sister was also killed. His younger sisters and his brother-in-law are in critical condition. I can’t imagine what this man feels. He is not counting his blessings. His faith is under faith. In the face of loss, he will face the toughest test, to believe God is still good while his heart hurts. “Love your enemies, do good to those who persecute you” is not a quaint notion for him.
When I read this story, I was brought low. How can I claim any spiritual maturity when there are people who must live with this kind of threat? How can I judge anyone when my faith has never faced this kind of test? All my complaints about the difficulty of life seem trivial compared to the faith that is required to believe when a father sees the blood of his child spilled on the floor of the sanctuary.
King David once said, “I will not give God an offering that costs me nothing.” Every kind of faith, Christian or not, will face this kind of test. The test will be simple, though the circumstances seldom are. The test is this: Is my faith cheap, an imitation of the real thing, a faith that breaks under pressure? Or is my faith expensive, willing to sacrifice, willing to believe in the face of pain, present in times of trouble?
Cheap faith or expensive faith. Which faith do you have?