The flesh cries for more. More diversion, more money, more social life, more food; these would surely make life better. More seems to be the key to happiness.
Once after preaching from a boat floating close to the shore, Jesus told its owners to cast their nets again into the water (Luke 5:4-7). Somewhat reluctantly because of a fruitless and tiring night, Simon obeyed. So greatly were the fishermen rewarded that they “filled both the ships, so that they began to sink” (v. 7). Great as the blessing of an abundant harvest was, had they continued loading on more until the boats sank, it would have been loss.
Sunken ships are a loss. Overcharged lives, although filled with things not essentially bad, can become a spiritual waste, also. That is why the Scriptures offer numerous examples that God’s way is often less rather than more.
Think of Gideon. Zealous to do God’s will and conquer Israel’s enemy, he called for all the soldiers he could get. Possibly he could have wished for more, but God’s way was to have less. God saw that more would have been a hindrance.
A religious young man came running to Jesus and asked what he could do to have eternal life. He said he had kept the commandments; perhaps he would have welcomed a few more to earn favor with God. Jesus’ sentence was that he had too much. His abundant wealth laid first claim to his affection, the very place God wanted for His own. Too much wealth.
One of the first fruits of the believers after Pentecost was to sell their properties and share them with the needy. The precious faith had seized their hearts. With it came deep love for their fellowman that superseded their dependence on wealth. Their fellowman’s welfare, both spiritual and physical, moved them to give all they had.
Wealth is not the only thing of which we can have too much. Anything that is placed above communion with God can cause our ship to sink. Social life is good. Too much social life is detrimental. Being social creatures, God ordained Christian fellowship to be a joy and a tremendous aid. In Godly social relationships, we gain inspiration from others, feel their sympathy in our difficulties, get confirmation for the convictions the Holy Spirit has already planted in our hearts and, in many ways, are supported and balanced on our spiritual journey. Too much social life, though, hinders. In young people, it can become a substitute for the security God wants to provide. Unhurried quiet time with Him is needed to allow convictions to form. That can so easily be crowded out by excessive social life.
Young families need plenty of time to interact, play together, listen to each other, and work for the benefit of the family. All of these can be displaced by too much social life. Enough time is needed so that children can learn that not being constantly occupied has real benefits. One of life’s lessons is that quiet time is not boring but is a time to develop one’s own thoughts and ingenuity.
Complaints about today’s busy lifestyle are well founded. We were not created to be madly rushing from one engagement to another. Over-busyness tends to make one self-absorbed rather than thinking of others’ needs. Time is needed to reflect on what has been done. To pause and listen for God’s direction while contemplating and planning for the future will make for well-grounded decisions.
Communication is a valuable gift. In a marriage, in family settings and among brethren, many of us need to exercise ourselves more in this grace. By communication, misunderstandings are avoided. To put our questions or doubts into words is in itself usually helpful. When others share their thoughts with us, it builds confidence and gives new inspiration. Sharing thoughts and convictions among Christians enhances unity.
But communication has become almost an obsession today. Observe the abounding of social media. Notice the ever-present cell phones in any waiting room, restaurant, and social setting. Apps have been developed that allow unlimited international communication that used to be impossible. Pressure builds to participate in more and more relationships, none of which are wrong in themselves. Indeed, relating to our far-flung brothers and sisters is often a good thing. Yet all of this needs to be in moderation.
There is a reason that Wisdom warns, “Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few” (Eccles. 5:2), and “In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise” (Prov. 10:19).
One wonders what the motivation is for the excessive communication we indulge in and observe. Is it the thrill of getting attention from many others? Ego seems to drive at least some of the social media craze. People want to be noticed and “liked.” Such motivation is not beneficial to Christian character.
Constant electronic communication can be an escape from facing the realities and challenges of everyday life. Rather than to take up the challenge of face-to-face sharing and visiting, it is easier to fire off a one-liner and be done. Rather than buckling down to the sweat and toil of life, the temptation is to entertain one’s self with light messaging.
As with the boatload of fish, the components of modern life are not necessarily bad. Each in its place can be good and even necessary. The problem lies in the excess. God’s way is moderation. The fallen flesh is prone to abuse its appetites. When someone places us under restrictions, we become protective of our “rights,” yet restricted appetites and freedoms nearly always lead to greater enjoyment. All were given for our well-being, and all are meant to be used in a Spirit-controlled way.
When the ship that carried Jonah was caught in a storm, all nonessentials, and even some things thought to be essential, went overboard to save the lives of crew and passengers. The same happened when Paul, the prisoner, was on a ship in a fierce storm. In the storms and crises of life, we discover that many things are not really necessary.
As pilgrims and strangers, simplicity and moderation should be our aim. Alert travelers to eternity know that they must be unencumbered by excess if they are to please the One who has called them. To honestly claim the pilgrim and stranger title, sacrifices need to be made. Excesses must be denied. Pleasure must give way to purpose. Curiosity must be governed by caution. The eternal must rule over the temporal.
From Messenger of Truth, Vol. 115, No. 07, March 29, 2017