It happened again this week, more than once. Single patients told me about their strong commitments to their faith and then followed their professions with requests for Viagra prescriptions. As is almost always the case their requests were made unaware of the contradictions they represented. I am always tempted to ask, “How is it that a devout single man such as yourself finds himself in need of Viagra?”
I see such inconsistencies almost every week. I see “Christians” who abuse alcohol, cohabitate, work under the table to avoid taxes, or get divorced for no other reason than “I’m unhapp!”. It seems that our culture has embraced a new kind of Christianity, a kind that does not cost a person anything.
I was discussing this phenomenon this week with some friends and one of my favorite Bible stories came to mind. It can be found in 2 Samuel 24. In the passage King David is following God’s instruction to raise an altar and offer a sacrifice at a specific location, the place were a man named Araunah threshed his wheat. One can only imagine the surprise when Araunah looked up from his labors to see King David and his entourage approaching!
Upon hearing of David’s mission, Araunah responded as a faithful servant should. Araunah offered to give David his own oxen for the sacrifice, as well as their yokes for the firewood. David’s response is priceless, “No! I insist on paying you for it. I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing.” David understood there was no such thing as a free sacrifice.
It seems that too many nowadays are into offering things to the Lord that do not cost anything. It is as if some are saying, “Faithfulness? Fidelity? Moral Purity? No way, God! Those things are costly. How about I give you a few Sunday mornings a month and put a few bucks in the plate every once in a while?”
The truth is that God does not negotiate the terms of our obedience. As Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” Self-denial is not optional in following Christ. It is mandatory. It is essential.
While many professed Christians do not seem to understand this truth, I think most non-Christians do. They understand that the genuineness of our faith is measured by the consistency our actions, not by the passion of our words. When they see people living lives that are the same as everyone else, they appropriately conclude that for many church is little more than a religious social club.
I want to be better. I want to follow God with my whole heart, whatever the cost. After over 40 years of pursuing my faith I have learned that this is indeed an expensive proposition. Hardly a day goes by that I am not saying “No” to something I initially want to do. I am constantly challenging myself to be patient and kind, to bite my tongue, or dismiss a malicious thought. It can be exasperating. I have such a long way to go and so much work to do.
There is a tremendous amount of energy I need to invest in denying myself and following God. True faith is indeed costly.
It is costly, but I have also come to understand that in the long-term, the return on investment is AMAZING.