UPDATED Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor), is an amalgamated and updated version of two blogs first posted on February 13 and 14, 2013.
Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend
“A Life of Substance Over Style”
1 Samuel 16:7
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
In an earlier blog, I talked about how God felt about Zerubbabel’s temple, built by Jewish returnees from Persia, some 70 years after the Babylonians had destroyed Solomon’s temple. At one point, God said to those working on Zerubbabel’s temple, “Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory (referring to Solomon’s temple)? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes?” (Hag. 2:3). Ouch! Yes, it was so true that, externally, Zerubbabel’s temple wasn’t much to look at when compared to the splendidness of the first temple.
Nevertheless, it turned out that God made that “awful” statement for effect, for He immediately declared, “Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel . . . Work, for I am with you (Hag. 2:4). And then in verse 9, God declared, “The glory of this present house (Zerubbabel’s) will be greater than the glory of the former house” (Solomon’s). Why was it that, to God, an inferior looking temple will be more glorious than the superior looking one? It’s because while “man looks at the outward appearance, . . . the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7). Whereas the builders of Zerubbabel’s temple, who left behind a life of comfort to do God’s work, had a heart for God, the majority of those who worked on Solomon’s temple were pagan laborers whom Israel forced to work (2 Chr. 2:17-8, 8:7-8); thus, they had no heart for God.
The comparison of the two Old Testament temples is analogous to the life choices we make. Basically, we have two models to choose from: a life of substance over style or style over substance. So then, what would the latter lifestyle look like? In short, it would be a life of pretension and ostentation. Once, a young man whom I just met at a church told me that he was a student at a prestigious university. I had no reason to doubt him since his apparel, car decal, and license plate holder bore the emblem of this school. Later, I found out that this young man fibbed; he never attended that college. What set him apart from others who lie about their background is the amount of effort he put in to back up his deception. Maybe he felt that no one would have respected him unless he went to a good school.
What he needed was an environment in which acceptance and validation were based on being created in the image of God (i.e., his intrinsic worth), not on merit, so that he could’ve felt secure enough be himself (without having to lie). Is our church a place where the weak and the fearful are accepted so that they may become secure in Christ?
In the end, a life of style over substance is how we go about hiding or compensating for our insecurities. The sad truth is that whatever image we have cultivated to look confident, based on our appearance (with the help brand-name clothes, makeup), possessions (thanks to credit cards), or accomplishments (aided by a creative resume), will actually increase our insecurities and intensify our dependency on additional lies and credit cards. Why? Because there is always someone who is prettier, richer, and better credentialed than us.
Returning to Zerubbabel’s temple, the lesson is this: Dedicate yourselves to do the best you can with whatever talent and resources God has given you; be content that He is pleased with the effort you exerted while depending on the Lord; don’t listen to outside voices that say, “It’s not good enough,” “Others did better,” or “Use short-cuts to go on top, fast!” There is no substitute to lead a life of substance; we must be completely saturated in God’s word and surrounded by people who love us for the right reasons.
Prayer: Father, I praise You for a life of substance possible in Jesus Christ, for no matter how weak or foolish I am at times, Your unconditional acceptance keeps me from opting for a life of pretension and inauthenticity. Help me to be real because I am in You. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 30-31