September 15, 2020 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Luke 6:24-26 (NRSV)
“But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
Woe to you who are full now,
for you will be hungry.
Woe to you who are laughing now,
for you will mourn and weep.
Woe to you when all speak well of you,
for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.”
Jesus invites us to examine ourselves honestly, to explore our true desires. What do you seek most of all? Wealth? Pleasure? Happiness? Fame? Though God made the goodness of this world to be enjoyed, we find ultimate meaning and delight when we seek first God and God’s kingdom.
Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.
In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, I suggested that the blessings and woes in Luke 6 challenge us to answer the question, “What do you really want in life?” In particular, the woes enumerated by Jesus urge us to reflect on what may be our core yearnings, since these are often endorsed by our culture and encouraged by our own human nature.
The woes mentioned by Jesus in Luke 6:24-26 reflect some of the things we most commonly desire in life: wealth, pleasure, happiness, and fame. For example, the Higher Education Research Group does an annual survey of college freshmen in the U.S. In the 2019 survey, participants were asked: “Please indicate the importance to you of each of the following.” The results were telling. What received the highest positive response? “Being very well off financially” (84.3%). When today’s Baby Boomers were taking this survey decades ago, they scored only 44.6% here. By way of contrast, 73% of Boomers once rated “Developing a meaningful philosophy of life” highly, whereas only 49% of today’s freshmen would agree. Also telling is the fact that only 43% of freshmen in 2019 placed high value on “Integrating spirituality into my life.”
I don’t mean to echo the archetypal Boomer who enjoys dumping on the younger generations. I’m rather sure that today’s Generation Z freshmen are not terribly different from their parents in core values. Perhaps the younger folk are simply more honest than their idealistic parents were in college. I think most of us would agree that our culture and our own hearts encourage us to desire wealth, pleasure, happiness, and fame.
Scripture does not demand that we reject the good things of this world. In certain contexts, wealth, pleasure, happiness, and fame are worthy of delight (see, for example, Genesis 2:9; Nehemiah 8:10; Proverbs 22:1-4, 24:13; John 2:1-11). Such things can even be blessings from God. But when we desire them most of all, when we live in order to maximize money, pleasure, happiness, and fame, then we are missing the best way of God’s kingdom. The things for which we strive offer temporary delight, according to Jesus. Moreover, they can easily pull us away from primary devotion to God and God’s righteousness. They can allow us to trust in earthly goodness rather than God’s grace.
In my own reflections on Luke 6:24-26, I have found it helpful to consider each of the values Jesus associates with woe. What are my deepest desires in life? To what extent am I living for wealth, pleasure, happiness, or fame? What might take higher place than God and God’s kingdom when it comes to my true yearnings? I would invite you to join me in this kind of reflection, using the questions below.
What are your deepest desires in life?
To what extent are you living for wealth, pleasure, happiness, or fame?
What might take higher place than God and God’s kingdom when it comes to your true yearnings?
As you reflect on the questions above, talk honestly with God about what you’re thinking. Ask for insight from the Holy Spirit. Be open to what God might want to show you about yourself.
Gracious God, there is a part of me that truly desires you and your kingdom more than anything else. I know this part of me and thank you for the grace that nourishes it.
Yet, I am also aware, Lord, of other parts of me, parts that want things besides you. I can yearn for wealth, pleasure, happiness, or fame . . . or all of the above. I can easily put first what seems best for me, rather than for you and your kingdom. I can believe that temporary delights matter more than eternal ones. I confess this to you, asking for forgiveness, and also for a new heart. Renew me, Lord, so that I might yearn for you and your goodness. May I put my trust, not in the things of this world, but in your faithfulness and mercy.
Even as I enjoy your good gifts for today, may I yearn for the full goodness of your tomorrow. Amen.
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Concern for the Poor (Luke 6:17-26; 16:19-31)