Read in 2018 with the ECS board. This must have been my third, maybe fourth, time through. It was also my first time through after having read Planet Narnia a couple times. It was better than ever. Apparently I am “old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”
“And the truth is, I know nothing more effective for quieting a Christian soul and getting contentment than this, setting your heart to work in the duties of the immediate circumstances that you are now in, and taking heed of your thoughts about other conditions as a mere temptation.”
—Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, 52
We’ve been talking about food and gods in 1 Corinthians 8 in our current sermon series, about the connection between eating and worship. In Philippians 3 Paul warns about those who “walk as enemies of the cross of Christ” and it also has to do with an idolatrous relationship with repast.
“Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory on their shame, with minds set on earthly things” (verse 19).
The four phrases seem to work backward from the end. These men are occupied with physical things and so that’s where they get their standards. Earthly standards lead to an exchange between glory and shame. When shame gets taken for glory, self must be the god. And because we can’t ever successfully exchange God’s world for our imagined world, self-as-god ends in destruction, where the verse starts.
“Their god is their belly” is quite a striking, almost crude sounding description. The comforts for self, the satisfactions for self, all serve self. Note that it doesn’t necessarily have to be a “fat belly” (Buddha-like) god, it could be a “free range only belly” god or a “flat belly” god; the focus is still on self. These are enemies of the cross which crucifies self.
Those who are, by contrast, friends of the cross, if we can call them that, are not defined by what they do or do not put in their bellies, they are defined by their bellies being servants of God rather than gods to be served. They are appropriately ashamed in their shame, and they anticipate the true glory when Christ transforms our “lowly” bodies “to be like his glorious body” (verse 20).
There is no neutrality. Either we will worship the Creator or something in creation. Our bellies will show shame or glory, not measured by girth but by gratitude.
The sort of seeing “all as his” that I mean can be seen in what a man anticipates. A friend of ours is really good at this, and here’s just one story. When his wife was pregnant he made a sandwich for her and put it in her purse. She didn’t think about packing herself a snack. She didn’t ask him to make a sandwich. But he knew that she would be gone for a while and that she was likely to get hungry. He’d observed her scrounging around for left-over food on a previous excursion, so he anticipated her need and provided. That kid in her belly didn’t become his responsibility only after the kid was born or only after his wife asked for help.
The “all is his” mindset can also been seen in how he finishes. The trope is as old as men have been coming Home from Work. The husband/father walks in the door and he’s tired. It was a hard day, stressful. He wants a break. Sure. But how is managing his household not his deal? It’s not time to check out. It’s time to check in, with his wife, with his kids. How is his flock? What do they need, and who is supposed to provide for them? It is not someone else. He could get mad that dinner isn’t ready at the expected time, but that’s because his expectation about what it means for him to be finished is incomplete.
One of the most difficult things to communicate to a guy/husband/father is that all of it is his. He has responsibility for everything, even if he isn’t the one who does all the work.
Marriage is a partnership with the husband as the head. That means that while the wife has work, and the two of them discuss who will take care of what, the wife’s work is still the husband’s to consider. It never becomes hers in a way that he is no longer concerned with.
The typical guy thinks about His work and Her work, and I don’t mean work designated for a male or a female. It’s easy for him to get upset when she asks him questions about her work, or when she doesn’t finish her work in the time he thought she should, because he thinks it’s carving into his work. This is precisely the (pressure) point. It is all his work. She is not messing with his work, she is doing some of his work, even if he wished it was more or different. If she has questions or concerns that she brings to his attention, this is not something other than his responsibility, even if he thinks he’s delegated a task to her.
A simple way to think about what is his: what if his wife died? He would need to know how to pay the bills, each kid’s allergies and schoolwork, what clothes don’t go in the hot load, and how many days in a row of chicken nuggets for lunch is actually unhealthy. What if she was in a debilitating accident? He would need to take care of all the previous things and take care of her.
He could get mad about it, but that doesn’t make it not his responsibility. He could abdicate, run away to the garage, his man-cave, time with the buddies, more of “his” work at the office, or actually just leave the family, and it seems some guys do.
Is it possible for a wife to take advantage of a husband’s big shoulders? I suppose. Is it likely that she would take advantage of this, while he’s listening to her and seeking to serve her for both of their benefit? I don’t think so. But such a situation is rare because, as I said at the start, it’s hard to get a guy to see it all as his.
There are (at least) two ways to feel superior to other people: know that you know more/better than others, or, not actually know better but be self-satisfied in your imagined higher estate. In other words, pride comes from a certain kind of knowledge, and pride comes from a certain kind of ignorance.
God says that knowledge puffs up. The wise man measures his wisdom and seeks to gain more of it, but his sin tempts him to measure against the attainments of others. Rather than compare our knowledge to God’s, and give thanks for His grace that brought us to knowledge, we sit in judgment on our brothers.
Ignorance is not better, and it certainly does not guarantee of humility. An ignorant man who has enough knowledge to know he is ignorant is one thing, but a fully ignorant man is ignorant of his own state. All he needs is a good imagination and to drink at the fount of self-esteem propaganda all around him.
In my observation, men are more likely to fall into the latter category, women into the first, they even have the moniker: “Church Ladies.” (Preachers are a third category of unhelpful.) Men should stop acting like know-it-alls, and women should stop believing that they are better because they talk demurely about their righteousness. It is not always those who argue loudly that have a pride problem, it can also be those who whisper, taking delight in someone else’s failure.
This is another reason why worship, informed and driven by the Word, is so important. Worship in ignorance does not exalt God, and worship in true knowledge of God does not exalt us. We are humbled before Him and learn how to treat others just as He treats us.
“A silent lover is one who doesn’t know his job.” (Robert Capon, The Supper of the Lamb)
Today is our twentieth wedding anniversary! Praise the Lord, and amen!
I love my wife, though I have not always been good at knowing what love is or what love does. By grace, she has been patient and I am on the learning/loving path.
From the beginning I knew that she would not be satisfied with the status quo in our Christian walks, in our relationship at spouses, in our work as parents, or in our service to Christ’s Body; her high expectations were part of what attracted me to her. In order to be helpfully provocative (rather than a nag, or as the boss) she had to be a committed disciple of Jesus, a lover of the Bible and theology, and a student of people. She has been that since I met her, and has only matured more than I could have imagined in all of those things over the last two decades.
There is no one that I’ve sinned against more than her, and there is no one that has shown me what forgiveness looks like in the flesh as much as her.
She is a model of endurance through chronic and sometimes debilitating pain.
She cares about our kids, seeing them for who they are and encouraging each one in their particular interested and giftedness.
She is the financial nerd (in Dave Ramsey terminology), but how necessary that has been to keep us from never-ending debt of the free-spender.
She loves loud music, the kind that shakes the outer panels of our minivan and causes the back seat to bounce with the subwoofer underneath.
She consumes and processes more conversations in a month (personal and via podcasts) than I can imagine doing ever.
She is always curious, always learning, quick to say she was wrong, laughing (the good ways) the whole time.
She respects me far more than I deserve, to my face, to our kids, and to others in our church.
And I still love to watch her gait, even though it’s changed a lot under the burdens of pain and responsibilities.
When Paul affirmed the truth of the knowledge about God to the Corinthians he summarized: “for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist” (1 Corinthians 8:6).
Of course this affirms God’s sovereignty. God is the source and the end of all things, and Jesus mediates God’s wisdom and strength in the creating and sustaining of all things. But is the point of the truth God’s power and authority?
It is not less than that, but it is also an affirmation of God’s generosity. Of all the things that belong with God as Father, it is His love that gives. All things originate in Him, but the point even to the Corinthians is not that we look through thick glass walls that separate us from all that He has. There is no wall. We look at all that He has given.
Included in that generosity is His own Son. God loved the world and gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but receive eternal life. And if the Father gave us Christ, how will He with Him not give us all things?
On Father’s Day we are learning what fathers are like, even as we eat and drink around the table of His generosity. We learn His nature and we are strengthened to imitate Him.
“The Lord knows how to order things better than I. The Lord sees further than I do; I only see things at present but the Lord sees a great while from now. And how do I know but that had it not been for this affliction, I should have been undone.”
—Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, 36