A little boy bursts into a candy store, his father hot on his heels as he fights to keep up with the rambunctious little ball of energy that is the seven year-old boy that stands before him. The boy gasps in amazement at all the different candies around him, an assortment of various different colors and shapes and sizes and, presumably, tastes. He darts from one plastic container to another, looking at all the different sweets and feeling his desire grow stronger as he moves from one fair-looking delicacy to another of even greater attraction.
After about ten or so minutes of this, the father walks up to his son and, smiling down at him, lowers down to a knee so that they are now eye level with one another. “Now that you’ve had your fair share of looking,” he begins, “Which one of these candies can you simply not live without?”
The boy smiles excitedly and opens his mouth to respond, but something in the back of his mind causes him to pause before speaking. As he looks into his father’s kind eyes, he remembers the huge lunch they just had, the lunch that left them both stuffed and holding their bellies as they waddled out of the restaurant just minutes before. He thought about the candy his father had bought him the day before, and that time last week when his dad had surprised him with ice cream after school. Then, with a curious smile on his face, the boy at last responds:
“I don’t need any of them.” And he knew he was telling the truth.
His father squinted his eyes. “But you want them.”
The boy couldn’t help but grin sheepishly. His father knew him so well.
As if to attest to this, his father swung his arm from around his own back to reveal a bag of goodies in his hand—the very candies that his son was originally going to choosebefore holding his tongue. “I figured you might want some,” the dad said with a smile.
And oh, how delicious they were.
In this story, you and I represent the child while the candies represent the things of this world and the father, quite fittingly so, represents our Father in heaven. You see, as the child first enters into the candy store—this world that God has provided us with—he is entranced by all its wonders, darting from one place to another as he takes in all the beauty this world has to offer. His mouth grows dry and he begins to lick his lips, wanting nothing more than to reach into the little bins of candy and eat all of it until he at last crashes from taking in too much sugar. But at the moment his father comes to him and asks him which candy he needs—which thing in the world he simply can’t live without—and the little boy does what so many of us fail to do: he looks at the provision of the father and, seeing all that the father has provided in the past, recognizes that he needs absolutely none of it. Yes, he wants the candy, but he does not need it. Yes, he would cherish every single piece provided to him, but he doesn’t need even one. He realizes that his father, in his love for him, has already provided so much and has met all the needs he has plus so much more. Yet the father, in knowing this, still continues to give, and the boy enjoys the candy that much more.
In the same way, as we go throughout our lives, we are eager to take what the world has to offer and find pleasure in it, sometimes enjoying the little candies so much that despite their status as a delicacy, we lie to ourselves and tell ourselves that we not only want them, but in fact need them. But this is simply us lying to ourselves, making ourselves prisoner to the candy store so that, once we leave that store, we will go insane, not knowing what to do without that candy we so desperately need! We often put our meaning in the things of this world, and resultantly when they are taken from us, we find our world falling apart. These are the strawberries and the fires I have spoken of previously, just looked upon in a different light; they are good things until you put too much importance in them, at which point the strawberries become sour and the fires cease to give birth to life.
During Jesus’ walk here on earth, He spoke of this philosophy in a means that was very controversial back then and continues to be very controversial today, saying that “If anyone comes to me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). Now, when Jesus says “hate” it is not “hate” as we know the term—revulsion, disgust, animosity—but instead implies that the person who hates something instead holds it of no account, knowing that in the end, everything here on earth is but temporal and finite, destined to pass away and therefore have no lasting effect in the realm of eternity. Like the child of the story, Jesus is recognizing the fact that while the things of this world—the strawberries, the candies, however you see them—are good things to enjoy and appreciate, you should not find any need in them, nor should you find any meaning in them. You should appreciate them and be glad that they have been gifted to you, yet still hate them, or hold them of no account. They can be beautiful gifts, but they do not define you.
Another way that Jesus described this truth is when He says that “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Matt. 6:24). A better (in my opinion) translation of the word “money” here is actually “mammon,” a word that implies worldly wealth or, in general, the riches or things of this world in which we might find pleasure. Jesus, here, is pointing out that you cannot do both at the same time: serve the world and serve God. Every single moment you live and breathe you have a choice to make, and sadly, as humans we often make the wrong choice, choosing to serve the world and its lies rather than God and His truths. We understand the world far more than we understand God, so rather than acting upon the faith in which we are unsure, we act upon the lies in which we have found assurance. It’s a convoluted mess, but we are humans so we do it anyways.
The point of what I am trying to tell you today is this: while the world and its ways and pleasures may seem promising at first glance, you must remind yourself that they should only seem appealing to someone who is not already complete. But as we have discussed previously, we are one with Christ (1 Cor. 6:17) and by being one with Him, we also have been brought to full completion through Him(Col. 2:10) and thus have no need for anything the world has to offer—our fate is already sealed through eternal life with Christ! Should we enjoy the things of this world, though? Of course, God wouldn’t have provided us with it if this were not so! Yet, in the end, we should not find our meaning in those things, because our meaning should be found in and of God, who is the only One who can truly satisfy our needs.
NOW LET’S BE HONEST…we fail at this each and every day, even when our minds are clear and we know what we should be doing. The serpent is cunning and the fruit looks sweet, and we so easily fall into the temptation that are the lies of this world, finding our meaning in things like wealth, status, clothing, career, relationships, fitness, or even religion. All these things are good things if approached with a God-centered mind and body, but when your meaning and your needs start to be found in them, things will quickly crumble because each of these could be taken away in the twinkling of an eye. Your relationship could end. Your loved one could die. Your clothes could rip. You could be fired from your job. You could wreck your new car.
…yet nothing can separate you from God (Rom. 8:31-39).
The lies of this world tell you to stay in the boat because it is your only salvation. But when you listen to God, He tells you to step out on the sea because you can walk on that water! It requires faith, yes, but when that leap of faith comes you will learn you can fly and an entire kingdom of knowledge opens up before you. When you choose to serve God, you are like the prodigal son coming home, welcomed in for a banquet in his honor and presented with a beautiful robe to wear (Luke 15:20-24). What was once dead has now come back to life. What was once lost has now been found. What was once blind can now see. What was once bound in chains now wears the most beautiful of crowns. What was once afraid is now free.
So here is my challenge to you: Trade that grudge in for forgiveness. Trade that judgment in for love. Trade that fear in for freedom. Trade that mammon in for the Lord.
Let your chains fall down and embrace the freedom that you will receive in serving God, the one, true Master who will provide everything you need and so much more.