Lord's Day Liturgy

A Bellyaching Bucket

I’ve mentioned it a few times recently, but I keep thinking about it, I keep having opportunities to try it, and I keep thinking that it could really work.

What I’m about to say connects with the image used in Revelation 1 for the churches. The image that Jesus uses for the churches is a lampstand, a light giver. Jesus told His disciples that they were the light of the world, and collectively our light should shine brighter.

How do we give off light? I suppose it is somewhat verbal, especially when we have opportunity to name names for why we do what we do. We believe in and love and live for Jesus Christ the Lord. But the light is also behavior; the light of life should be visible. Look at the light.

In Philippians Paul exhorted the Christians to work out their salvation with fear and trembling, reminding them that God was working in them, both to will and to work for His good pleasure (2:12-13). What does His good pleasure look like in conduct?

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world. (2:14-15)

If you want to live straight among the crooked, don’t bicker about everything. If you want to be pure, give thanks. That’s the opposite of “grumbling,” which is a muttering (in Greek goggusmos, an onomatopoetic word that sounds like what it refers to) of disappointment and dissatisfaction. Paul identifies the no-complaint zone: this “twisted generation.” So your context for complaining is covered.

Do people grumble about their spouse? Their kids? Their job? Their government? Their president? Their age? Their future? They do, and we should not. We are the light of the world, so don’t put a bellyaching bucket over your light.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Envy Kills

Envy kills. It kills the taste buds of one’s own soul, making sweet things seem dull and unsatisfying. It kills contentment, making those who have not wish that they were someone else. Envy has killed entire classes of people, as with the manifesto of communism to overthrow those with property and make sure that everyone has an equal amount.

Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the life of its possessors. (Proverbs 1:19)

Envy corrupts politics, ruins the use of money, undermines education, divides neighbors, flattens genders, and embitters siblings. More than of all of that, it is a spiritual problem. Sure, some laws protect against envious theft, some systems of government promote personal responsibility, but only freedom from our envy and covetousness in Christ can replace a worldview of envy with a worldview of thanks.

We want and don’t have so we fight and quarrel and kill (James 4:1-2). The current world way of thinking is littered with self-centered comment cards. So Paul told the Philippians that they would shine as lights in the midst of a crooked generation simply by not complaining.

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world (Philippians 2:14–15)

All we need to do to be lights in the darkness is to stop whining. Thankfulness is a political statement, an economic principle, a worldview that changes our influence.

Don’t grumble, be grateful. We should learn to see all of our possessions as things that were given to us by God (because they are, 1 Corinthians 4:7), and see the things others have as their gifts from God and be thankful for that, too. We should submit gladly and gratefully for all that God enables us to enjoy. If we see the seeds of bitterness or discontentment or envy or grumbling starting to take root in our soul, we need to confess it before it chokes out our life.

Every Thumb's Width

All Poor Devils

In light of all the reasons God gives us to be grateful–as a society, a church, in our families, and on the nitty-gritty of our dinner tables–why do so many grumble? We whine because we want to be God. Here’s a dependable observation from a dubious source, Friedrich Nietzsche.

There is a powerful causal drive within [man]: someone must be to blame for feeling bad…And waxing indignant makes him feel better, too: all poor devils take pleasure in cursing, it gives them a little rush of power. (Twilight of the Idols)

In other words, complaining is the closest we get to being God. We know that we can’t actually control anything but if we complain about it, then we can at least make ourselves feel like we are above the problems. Only those who aren’t trying to be God can thank God for whatever He gives. Otherwise we’ll just be fussy devils.