Recent austerity drive by the ruling party in India evoked much discussion. Ministers were forced to vacate their expensive hotel rooms, travel by economy class and slash many other excessive costs. It was the first time many Indians came to know that some of their elected representatives spend so much money on one day that an ordinary citizen does not earn even in an entire year.
Many columnists dwelt on it extensively. Some showed it as an election stunt to impress the common people for votes. Others commented upon the value of simple life and suggested to apply similar practice in many other areas as well.
One thing the present writer noticed is this that people admires those who choose to live simple in spite of their large possessions. And in the course of time general public lose their respect for those who display their wealth.
What is the Christian point of view in this regard? Does the Bible say any thing about ostentatious life? It seems many believers actually do not care enough about this. Many consider that God has blessed us with lot of wealth, then why can’t we enjoy and show it off?
The Lord rebuked the people Israel severely because of their showy life. Especially in the book of Amos we see the Lord repeatedly denouncing their luxury. He condemned their expensive houses and costly parties. (Amos 3:14, 15; 5:11, 12; 6:3—6) They did not care for the poor; on the contrary they exploited them. As a result of such luxurious life style they lost any interest in hearing the word of God. In fact they hated them who say the truth. Amos 5:10.
Isaiah says something more serious against Judah. The Lord “called for weeping and mourning, for baldness and for girding with sackcloth. But instead, joy and gladness, slaying oxen and killing sheep, eating meat and drinking wine: “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!” Isaiah 22:12, 13. They despised the word of God and openly rebelled against Him in their hunger for lavishness.
Is it not the condition of the Lord’s people today? With out any hesitation showing off their wealth to impress people. The entire life style is a copy of the people of this world. Notice some of the marriage functions of the ‘spiritual’ men. The unbelievers fail to comprehend the display of the riches of Christians who claim to follow the New Testament pattern. They forget all the spiritual principles or church practices while conducting / attending such sumptuous parties.
More than a hundred years ago when spiritual awakening took place in the southern part of India, new converts in their zeal and commitment to the Lord chose to live a simple life. They forsook wearing any kind of ornaments. The children of these godly men followed this practice and today there are some local churches who will not even accept one as their member if they wear any ornaments!
Now the fourth generation fail to understand the significance of this prohibition. What troubles them most is the extravagant life style of the present day believers. On one hand they oppose ornaments vehemently and on the other hand adopting all the fashions of the world in all the other areas of life. There is an apparent competition for show - as the most ‘spiritual’ on one occasion and the most ‘modern’ on another occasion! Is it not hypocrisy? No wonder the young generation as well as the unbelievers are confused.
What is the end result? The Lord’s name is dishonoured; people fail to grasp the message of the word of God in the backdrop of such inconsistent Christian life.
It is true, that which is ostentatious in one situation many not be the same in another occasion. It may be very hard to draw a line in regard to what is luxury and what is modest. But the point is this, we should be aware of the standard we ought to maintain.
The word of God categorically declares that care for riches and pleasure chokes up the word of God. Luke 8:11. Craving for more pleasurable and pompous life hinder the spiritual outlook. Fallen man will never be satisfied in the worldly attractions and he will always look for more. Natural heart wants everything more: bigger, faster, more thrilling and more entertaining. That’s why Peter exhorts to “abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul”. 1Peter 2:11.
A sense security based on the things of the world is false one and it is foolishness as well. Isaiah 47:8, 9; Luke. 12:19. We know what happened to Solomon who lived a luxurious life. His wealth was immeasurable. 1Kings. 4:22; 10:22 etc. The “rich man clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously everyday” but ended up in hell. Luke 16:19—23. It was during such ostentatious occasions, the hands of God fell upon Belshazzer (Dan.5) and Herod (Act. 12). Yes the Lord is not pleased in such show and He warns His people against it.
The Lord Jesus Christ lived a moderate life. Paul deliberately forsook that which was his own for the sake of Christ. Phil. 3:7ff. He always looked for more in relation to spiritual matters; but he was content in other things. Phil. 4:11.
When unbelievers are trying to be modest and appreciate those who follow such life style, shall we not consider the Biblical stand on it? It should be our constant effort to abide by the norms of the word of God. We should not allow materialism to influence our attitude.
Let the world know that we are different not only in our words but in our whole life style as well. Like Apostles Peter requests his readers, let our conduct be honourable among the Gentiles, that they may have nothing to speak against us, but glorify God in the day of visitation. 1Peter.2:12.
What is separation?
What do we mean by Christian’s separation? Does it mean that a Christian believer should not have any contact with an unbeliever? There are some who think such a way! According to them, we should not live in a housing society where unbelievers also live. They maintain that we should not work in a place where unbelievers are there. They even prohibit their members from having food from a restaurant, saying they are unbelievers! Such an idea is actually going to the other extreme. If that is the case, we will have to go to some monastery, or live on some mountains, away from the general public! Cp. 1Corinthians.5:10
‘Separation is not isolation’. We are not supposed to isolate ourselves from the people. We have to live among them as salt and light. Martthew.5:13—16. This truth is clearly mentioned in John.17 where the Lord refers a lot on our separation. “Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world.” “I do not pray that you should take them out of the world, that you should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” John.17:11, 15, 16. The kind of separation the Lord Jesus Christ expects from us is this, that we live in the world, among the people, yet living in such a way that we are not of this world. We are not following the pattern and the practices of those unbelievers around us.
It was in this way Christ lived in this world. About Him even Jews of His time made an accusation that He associates with sinners and publicans. Yes, He loved them and ate with them. Luke.7:36; Mak.6:31; Matt.11:16-19. His effort was not to copy their life style but to win them. He loved them and sought to save them. Yet about Christ the word of God says He was separate from sinners. Hebrews. 7:26.
Another convincing example is from the Old Testament. Daniel and friends did not oppose at the name changing by the Babylonian king, but took a stand when they were challenged to compromise their faith and food. Daniel. 1:6-8. That is the kind of separation a Christian has to practice in this world. We must be willing to identify with others where ever we can, without compromising our identity, values and principles. 1Corinthians.5:10. Yet, we must take a definite stand when it affects our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not isolation but keeping oneself away from the evil and unscriptural conduct of this world, so that we can stay true to the Lord and His word.
Choosing the second best
D. L Moody was once preaching on the story of the rich young ruler (Mark 10:17—22) and he wanted to make this point quite clear – that it is not enough to know about Jesus, or even believer that Jesus is the Saviour, we must trust Him if we are to have the treasure He offers.
To illustrate the point, Mr. Moody called a small boy up to the platform beside him, and offered him two things from which to choose – an orange, and a crumpled piece of paper. The boy chose the orange and went back to his seat by his father.
Then Mr. Moody opened the crumpled piece of paper and showed that it was a five pound note! The boy was sorry he had made a wrong and foolish choice. The five pound would have bought him many hundreds of oranges. It was the same with the rich young ruler. He chose what he could see and handle and that looked so nice, he lost what was of such a far greater value.
News & Views:-
‘By 2029 man will be immortal’!
According to the Press Trust of India, Ray Kurzweil, an American scientist has predicted that man could begin to live for ever in 20 years time through nanotechnology. He says, ‘by 2020 we will have the means to reprogramme our body’s stone-age software to halt and then reverse ageing’.
The scientist says already, blood cell-sized submarines called nanobots are being tested in animals. Ultimately nanobots will replace blood cells and do their work thousands of times more effectively.
“By the middle of the next century we will have back-up copies of the information in our bodies and brains that make us who we are. Then we really will be immortal”, he added. “Nanotechnology will extend our mental capacities to such an extent we will be able to write books with in minutes”.
Man’s desire to live long is not new. But can he achieve it? On one side we do see technological growth that can help man to sustain life for some more time. At the same we do see new diseases that afflict man.
The word of God can not fail. “The days of our lives are seventy years and by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.”
Psalm 90:10. The only hope for man to live forever is to trust the Lord Jesus Christ who died and rose again to live for ever.
“Beauty is truly beauty when its comrade is a modest mind.”
“He who speaks without modesty will find it difficult to make his words good.”
“The best things carried to excess are wrong.”