The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains,
The world, and those who dwell in it. (Psalm 24:1)
I often wonder, however, if we have recognized how deeply we (the church) are immersed in consumer addiction. Of course, the merry-go-round experience known as “church shopping” makes most pastor’s top five list of things we hate about culture’s negative impact; but does our self-critique go any deeper than that? It should.
We all have our loyalties. We are loyal to a political affiliation, to our cultural heritage, to our Mac, to P.F. Changs, a few of us even to the Yankees. And then, added to that mix, some of us are loyal to Jesus as well. Jesus will have to squeeze in, but there’s enough loyalty to spread around.
The sickness here is that the whole enterprise begins and ends with us. We know what we want, and we use whoever or whatever will help us get it. If the Democrats offer what we desire, fine. If the Republicans do, okay. If a career or a spouse or a master’s degree helps, great. And when Jesus can grease the wheels, all the better. From this posture, we attach God’s name to whatever suits us. We may quote a verse or pray a prayer, but then we baptize our every whim and desire in the name of me (as Skye Jethani reminds us). In a consumer culture, the customer, not Christ, is King.
This is precisely the question we must ask: Who is king? Is Jesus Lord? Or are we? Often, our actions belie that we have made a lethal error. We believe we own the world. We believe the world and all its resources — all our friendships, all of our time, all our economic power — are ours to devour.
To this, Psalm 24:1 echoes a strong rebuke. The earth is the Lord’s, not ours. God owns every solitary speck on this mess of a planet (including us). There isn’t a single molecule we can call our own. To borrow from the T-shirt, “This is God’s world. We’re just living in it.”
Certainly, God has given us His world to enjoy for our pleasure. But we are caretakers, not owners. Our first question is not: what do I want from this world? but rather, what does God want to do in His world? How does God want to heal in His world? How does God want to love broken people in His world? How does God want to speak life and truth and hope and justice into His world? And — most poignant for you and me — how does God want to use us in His redemptive work? Gobbling and gorging and stuffing our face full of God’s goodness is simply a puny, wasted way to live.
Dear Lord, remind me that this life is not my own. Thank you for leading me through life. Please continue to be at the center of my life.