You have eaten the fruit of deception

Monday Musings for April 27, 2020

Good morning, Musers,

The world is the way it is because it has eaten “the fruit of deception.” But at least the world doesn’t know any better. When God’s people do this, however, that’s a different issue. Christians should know better. If we — who have God’s word and his Holy Spirit — get in the habit of relying on ourselves rather than on God, should we expect anything less from the world?

Now, I’m a New Englander, and part of our heritage is to be self-reliant. This isn’t a problem in itself. God made the world so we may engage with it as workers (Genesis 2:15) ... and being a self-starter is part of that contract. Even after Adam fell, the world retained the capacity to satisfy us through gainful employment; it just took more effort to reach the point of satiation.

But like all things that God has intended for good, we can turn it to evil purposes, and the Protestant work ethic is hubris unless we thank God and acknowledge him as the One who set up this field of play.

God created the universe for his own purposes, and the processes necessary to redeem the world require that nature take its course. Now, we who are God’s people would like to see nature favor us — sort of as a rule! ... but it doesn’t. Sans the occasional miracle, the field is level... and if we don’t do the work, the field is fallow.

Matthew 5:45 tells us that it rains on the just and the unjust alike. In this we see where God provides generally for all people — whether they are believers or not (Acts 14:17) — but we believers should not be shy about “cashing in” on that stable agricultural cycle... and we do okay. It’s when we get seduced by our own successes that we get in trouble — and here, participating in the wrong kind of introspection is the beginning of the end.

By way of contrast, it is always time to seek the Lord! If we do not do so proactively and habitually, we could well end up doing it in captivity... as did ancient Israel. Too often they blew opportunities by blowing their own trumpets rather than God’s... and that pride cost them.

Fortunately, built into those agricultural idioms are ways of escape. The seasons are cyclical — and so are the joys and the problems of our lives. If we learn to bless God in boon and bane, we will have learned an important lesson: he built us as people who can have joy in all things — including our problems (James 1:2-4) — and this should lead us to a place of thanksgiving.

The trick here is not to do things out of order. It is tempting to engage the morning vigorously and attack the day straight on. But first, we should take counsel with God. A few minutes of orientation before the day begins can set the tone. “What are you and I going to do today, Lord?” is a great first question. It could have saved Israel its captivities, so imagine what it could do for people who are free agents in the world.

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