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Acts 19:21-20:6

11.30.2010

After writing to the Corinthians, Paul decides to leave Ephesus.  But before he can, things go pear-shaped as the local craftsmen go after Paul and the church for denigrating Artemis, the patron goddess of Ephesus.  The reason it is the craftsmen who are rioting is because their shrine-building business is threatened if devotion to Artemis declines.  So their protest is more about profit loss than about piety or religious principles.

This synchs up nicely with the theme of The Great Divorce, by CS Lewis, which I’ve been reading recently.  As he lays out in the preface to the story, Lewis is concerned with the role that ‘stuff’ plays in our lives relative to God.  We can take things that can otherwise be ‘good’ things (craftsmanship, civic duty, family, intellecual pursuits, etc.) and value them over God.  When we do this, we refuse to give them to God and choose to cling to them instead of Him.  Ultimately, like the Box o’ Sin, we choose to be destroyed with these wordly things rather than abandon them and join in eternal fellowship with God.   Lewis thus envisions Hell not as a place where people end up without knowing how they got there — there won’t be any sense of, ‘Oh, darn!  I thought I was going to fellowship with God; what am I doing here?’  Rather, Hell is populated with those people who knowingly, persistently choose to be damned with our idols than to live forever without them.

As usual, I come away from reading Lewis shaking my head at how adeptly he describes thoughts and experiences I’ve had.  I’ve long been convinced that as long as I pursue a wordly good for its own sake, God will thwart my endeavors.  But as soon as I say, ‘God, I don’t care if I get that thing or not.  What matters is that I’ve got you,’ then God gives me the thing I just gave up. 

An example:  During the final quarter of freshman year in college, everyone was selecting roommates for sophomore year.  I had bounced around between social circles that year (as many people do their freshman year), and didn’t really have an obvious match for a roommate.  I prayed and prayed for God to set me up with  roommate so that I could be grounded in a social circle and get the most out of college, but all the people I knew or asked what their living situation was had already made arrangements.  I finally said, ‘God, I don’t care about my living situation next year.  I know that you’ll provide in some way and that whatever happens will be Your will.’  The next day, a couple of guys I kind of knew through my campus fellowship said that they needed one more person to fill out their apartment and wanted to know if I would be willing to live with them.  I ended up living with them for four years and came away with two of the best friends I’ve ever known.  I’m convinced that it’s because I gave up trying to find roommates and friends that God provided.

To recap, choose stuff (money, craftsmanship, friends, etc.) over God and ultimately get neither.  Choose God over stuff, and you’re likely to get both God and the stuff.  That’s not a promise (no prosperity gospel here!), and it’s not a system that can be gamed (God knows our hearts), but I’ve found it to be a good rule of thumb.

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From → [box o' sin], [cs/gk]

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