“In despising the gifts, we insult the giver.” -John Calvin
As I confessed last week, my low-grade guilt over enjoying good things is real. It’s a heart issue I didn’t realize was a thing until reading Joe Rigney’s The Things of Earth and as I finished the book yesterday, I can say it is undoubtedly one of the most helpful books I’ve ever read. I’ll be returning to it often.
Maybe you’re in the same boat? Maybe you’re also unsure of how to balance honoring God supremely with delighting in the pleasures at His right hand?
Ask yourself the following questions from Joe Rigney and dig deep for the reasons behind your answers.
- Do I feel a low-grade sense of guilt because I enjoy legitimate earthly pleasures?
- Is this guilt connected to any particular, concrete sinful attitude or action? Or is it rooted in a vague sense that I’m not enjoying God “enough” (whatever that means) or that I’m enjoying His gifts “too much”?
- Am I attempting to detach from creation and God’s gifts out of fear of idolatry, lest my love for them surpass my affections for Him?
- Am I overly suspicious of created things, looking at my delight in ice cream and sunny spring days and hugs from my spouse with a wary and skeptical eye, perpetually unsure whether they are too precious to me?
- Do I have the sense that as I progress in holiness, my enjoyment of fresh raspberries and hiking in the mountains and an evening of games and laughter with old friends ought to diminish because I am becoming increasingly satisfied with God alone?
- Do I regard certain activities such as prayer, worship, and Bible reading as inherently more holy and virtuous than other activities such as doing my job or listening to music or taking a nap?
“My point is not that you shouldn’t worry about the danger of idolatry. Far from it. Good gifts really can become distractions that keep us from communing with God. Idolatry isn’t a game; it’s a suicidal reality that wrecks our souls and awakens the wrath of a jealous God. My concern is that, in general, thinning out the gifts and rejecting the stuff, and suppressing our delight in created things, actually hinders our growth in grace and our ability to resist the pull of the Devil’s lies. There is a crucial place for renunciation and self-denial in the Christian life, but before we get to it (in chapter 9), we must recognize that our sin problem is far deeper than the glory of God’s gifts.
“Thankfully, the Gospel shows us a better way.” -Joe Rigney
More snippets from this most helpful book are coming soon. Stay tuned for more Gospel-rich soul food.