It’s so easy to think of how big or small my slice of the pie is compared to the next person. Sadly, we bring that same competitive, hoarding spirit into the work of the Spirit. That’s true regarding the Spirit’s work in our marriages and it’s true regarding the Spirit’s work in our ministries.
An Inspired Question
James said it well (actually, he said it perfectly well since he said it under the Spirit’s inspiration) in James 4:1-4. James asks the age-old question:
“What causes the fights and quarrels among you?”
What causes the fights and quarrels among husbands and wives? What causes the fights and quarrels among church members? What causes the fights and quarrels between various counseling “groups”?
James offers God’s answer to any with ears to hear; to any with the wisdom and humility to listen.
“Don’t they come out from the desires that battle (soldier) within you? You desire but you have not. When you don’t get what you want, you kill and covet—you retaliate and manipulate, and yet that still doesn’t get you what you want. So you quarrel and you fight some more—the vicious spiral spirals ever deeper.”
When we imagine life as a competition, then everyone else is, of course, our competitor. When our image of life is a war, then everyone else is, of course, our enemy. When we see life as a finite pie, then everyone else is racing against us for their slice of our pie.
A Supposedly Inspiring Answer
The world has a solution—compete smarter, fight better, race faster. To the victor goes the spoils. To the winner goes the crown.
Of course, the world’s solution is based upon the world’s angle. From the small angle of small minds looking at what seems to be a finite, small world, there’s only so much “stuff” out there. I have to demand my share of the finite stuff. The one with the most toys wins.
Some how this line of “reasoning” is supposed to inspire us. And inspire it does—it inspires a me-against-you, an us-against-them mentality. If the “victor” gets the “spoils” in a marriage, then what does the “loser” get? If my “side” of the church squabble “wins,” then what does the “losing side” end up with? If my “camp” in the seemingly never-ending “counseling wars” “wins,” then what does that leave the other “camps” with?
I’m sorry, but even as fleshly as I can be, I am decreasingly inspired by this “hoard the wealth” mindset.
An Eternally and Daily Inspiring Answer
Forget the world’s answer to a worldly problem. Consider God’s answer.
“You have not, because you do not humbly ask God. You have not, because even when you do ask, you ask with selfish motives—in order that in the pleasures of YOU, you may squander.”
When we assume that God is a Hoarder and that His universe has a finite supply of “stuff,” then even when we think to ask God for “stuff,” even “ministry stuff” (like a “better marriage,” a “bigger church,” a “ministry with larger impact”), then in God’s eyes (and His eyes are the only ones that matter), our motives are selfish.
God does not care about our agendas. God cares about our getting on board with His agenda. God does not focus on our kingdom building. God focuses on our building His Kingdom.
If I think that God is a Hoarder and His universe has a finite supply of the stuff I think I need, then I demand my share (more than your share!) of His limited stuff.
In marriage, I demand my share of being “right,” my share of my “needs being met,” my share of “satisfaction.” In church conflict, I demand my share of putting you “in your place,” my share of the “congregation’s trust.” In counseling wars, I demand my “market share” of “followers,” I demand my slice of the people-pie saying, “I am of your group!”
How immature. How childish. How sinful. How worldly. How adulterous!
“Adulteresses!” James labels us.
“Don’t you know that loving the world’s way means hating God and God’s way? Anyone who chooses to befriend the mindset of the cosmos, chooses to be God’s enemy! Repent! Draw near to God! He gives ever more grace!”
God Is a Grace Rewarder, Not a Hoarder
God’s supply is never exhausted. His supply of grace is infinite. God is a grace Rewarder. Those who come to Him, the author of Hebrews reminds us, must believe that He exists, and that he generously, graciously rewards those who diligently, humbly seek Him.
In the beginning of our fallen cosmos, Satan schemed to deceive our spiritual parents into believing the unspiritual lie that God was a “Shalt-Not-God.” “God,” Satan whispers then and now, “is a Hoarder and His supply is limited. Grab the fruit of the tree now before someone else exhausts His limited supply.”
“God,” the Spirit whispers in His still, small voice then and now, “so loves the world that He gave infinitely—He gave His only begotten Son that whosever believes shall not perish but shall have everlasting life.”
“God,” the Son whispers in His authoritative, loving voice then and now, “so loves the world that He gives infinitely. That’s why I came—to give you everlasting life and ever-expanding life—abundant life. Spoiling and spilling over life—not so you could consume it on your own lust, but so you could share it out of the overflow of my Father’s infinite supply!”
So What? What’s It About?
Since God is a generous grace Rewarder who showers us with everlasting life and ever-expanding life (eternal life and abundant life) . . . so . . . we give. So . . . we mimic His giving, His sharing.
So, in our marriages, we are not competing for a limited supply of who is right or who is satisfied or whose needs are met. We are working together to advance God’s Kingdom of giving to others out of the overflow of God’s infinite love working in and through us.
So, in our churches, we are not competing with the other “faction” for a finite supply of whose style of music or style of preaching or style of leadership or style of youth ministry or style of carpet wins the day. We are working together to win the lost and equip the found so that God’s eternal, expanding is advanced in and through us.
So, in our “counseling wars,” we are not contending against rivals to see who will shout, “I am of Paul, I am of Apollos, I am of Cephas!” We are building bridges and working together to say, “We are of Christ—the infinite God who has generously graced us with forgiveness and with resources that are everlasting and ever-expanding so we minister in humble harmony learning from each other, empowering each other, respecting each other—so that the Body of Christ dances to the eternal song of the Trinity.”
It’s not about market share. It’s about sharing the mark of the Trinity—the eternal Community of mutual admiration and adoration. The everlasting Community of overflowing goodness and oneness. The infinite Community of equality and mutuality.
Join the Conversation
Where does the Christian community need to quit competing and start serving?