Monday, January 12, 2009

My Idol of Choice

I mentioned in an earlier post my discussion with Shelly about comfort becoming an idol. (Although I should give her credit for the concept -- she used the phrase and my eyes widened with a "Hmm! Yeah. Wow!") And that idea has haunted me all weekend.

Frankly, these days, I am living quite comfortably. This is due to the blessings of God and to the wisdom and efforts of a husband who does an amazing job supporting his family and managing his money. I'm in a beautiful, warm house, with all the necessities of life taken care of and most all of the conveniences of life available to me and with flexibility in my schedule and much more leisure time than I ever really acknowledge to myself. I am most certainly comfortable.

And I like that. And I feel guilty about it, too. Keith has told me several times over the last few years (somewhat facetiously, and with much affection) that I make a lousy rich chick. Some days, I look around me and feel like Schindler at the end of the movie, fretting over how much he hadn't done for the Jewish people: "This car could have bought 5 more . . this watch could have bought one more . . . "

God has blessed us richly, and have we used it well? Or have we just used it to make ourselves comfortable? Keith always reminds me that God wants us to enjoy the good things he gives us -- that an ascetic lifestyle isn't the pathway to salvation. The hermit living in poverty finds no more favor with God than the billionaire in his mansion, if they're both seeking first His kingdom and righteousness.

But as Shelly said earlier, comfort can become an idol. It's one thing to enjoy God's blessings with thankfulness and humility; it's another to become dependent on those blessings for your everyday sense of well-being. How do I know when I've crossed that line?

And, although I don't believe God calls us all to live as pleasure-rejecting monks in poverty and isolation, I do think there is spiritual value in living lives of simplicity and in occasionally denying yourself certain pleasures and comforts for the sake of spiritual growth. How do I get there? Without selling the house, I mean?

I don't have any answers for that yet. I'm hoping this will open a conversation--internally, within me, and externally, with all of you. Hit the comment button if you have something to contribute to my mental musings on the topic. I'm sure I'll write more about this again sometime . .


Anonymous said...

Keep talking, I'm listening... and thinking.

Ona Marae said...

When I was a youth pastor (up until last year) we discussed this a lot. It was the first time I ever worked with a white, middle and upper classed church and it was new to me. One of the families had one approach I liked. The kids only had a certain number of toys (and the parents a certain number of articles of clothing). When they got more, they selected which of the "older" ones to give away to and clothing. That way the closets never got too full....they never had too much, although the kids admitted to having plenty! and everyone got the idea young that sharing things with others was a way of life. I hope I did that justice in as few words as I used. If you have questions I can elaborate. I must tell you it encouraged one of my 10th grade boys to put a disclaimer on his birthday gifts please; instead bring something that can be used at a shelter, a toy or food or clothing. That way he didn't have to get rid of any of his stuff and he still got to give to the shelter! Smart kid!

Ona Marae said...

i had one more thought in the middle of the night, so i'm back to share it. You asked where the line is, without selling the house (grin). What if the line is about simplicity, not about comfort? I am quite comfortable, and I live on a disability income. But living a simple life, that is more of a challenge, I think, on whatever income you have. Simplicity is what allows us to keep our focus on God and not on the distractions around us. What do you think about that?