Is living as a disciple of Jesus just a way to get what we want, or is such a life its own reward?
I ask this because I think much of my life I viewed God as arbitrarily commanding certain actions, or forbidding others. God will punish you if you step out of line, and avoiding punishment is a primary motivator. The other motivator is getting nice things – in the end – everyone is pursuing pleasure and stuff, it is not the pleasure or stuff that is the problem. If you pursue them the way God said, by being generous and holy for example, you’ll get them in the end while others will not.
I suspect a lot of Christians have this view. I no longer think this way.
God will not punish you because you do not follow the rules – instead, the punishment will come from you choosing a life apart from God. God does not just give random commands, instead God commands what is best for you and thus if you stray from this, it will self-destruction.
Likewise, the goal of holy living is not to get stuff (a mansion in heaven is one I heard growing up). Then you’re just being greedy, but baptizing your greed. The goal is the holy living itself, it is its own reward.
All of this flowed into my mind as I read Psalm 7.
Read Psalm 7.
David faces enemies who are going to tear him apart (v. 2) and David calls out to God to allow these enemies to destroy him if he has done evil acts that deserve it (v. 3-5). I am amazed by David’s honesty with God here (though its not like God wouldn’t know if he was lying!). What would it look like for us to have such a clear conscience before our Creator?
David knows he can bring his case to God, for God is the good and perfect judge (v. 8-13). But it is not that God (at least in this Psalm) will actively strike out against evil people. Instead, God simply allows their evil acts to self-destruct:
14 Whoever is pregnant with evil
conceives trouble and gives birth to disillusionment.
15 Whoever digs a hole and scoops it out
falls into the pit they have made.
16 The trouble they cause recoils on them;
their violence comes down on their own heads.
As I said above, it is not that God arbitrarily commands as if God could command otherwise. God is Good, Love and Beauty and thus desires us to live lives of Good, Love and Beauty. When we turn from this towards evil, hate and darkness we build a house of cards that will collapse eventually. The fact it doesn’t collapse immediately shows that God keeps holding it up, waiting for us to get our act together.
Have you fallen into the pit you have made? Have you wondered why bad things happen to you, only to realize they happened because of choices you made?
Obviously this does not include all suffering. I am not saying everyone deserves what they get, for there are other forces at work that press in on us. The point for now is simply to call us to self-reflection. As Paul would say, are we growing good fruit (of the Spirit) or bad fruit in our lives (Galatians 5).
**I recently began sending the students in CSF a brief reflection on a Psalm each Friday. My hope is that it will provide them with some motivation to read scripture. I have enjoyed meditating on the Psalms, and I look forward to taking the next few years to get through them all! I decided it might be worthwhile to post the weekly devos here, so if you happen to read this, I pray it is helpful. Enjoy.