Here is the headline of a recent article on a Christian website: “God Made You for Happiness in Heaven, Not Comfort on Earth.” I was pretty sure the article was going to make me feel guilty, so I didn’t bother to read it.
In my mind, I acknowledge the truth of that headline. After all, if it’s true that our eternal souls will spend forever in either one of two situations, the joys of Heaven or the torment of Hell (which is exactly what Christianity has taught for 2,000 years), then it’s a no-brainer that we should do whatever it takes to make it to Heaven, even if it requires discomfort here on earth. (I believe Jesus’ famous “no-brainer” discourse is found in Luke’s gospel.)
Yeah, in my analytical mind that makes perfect sense. It’s like a simple financial decision. Imagine if a wealthy banker offered you this proposition: “You can have either $100 right now, but nothing more after that. Or you can wait a week and then have $1,000 per day, every day, for the rest of your life. Which do you choose?”
I don’t even need a pencil and a calculator to figure that one out. Obviously, going without any payment for seven days is well worth it, since in one week’s time you’ll be set for life.
So, in my mind the prospect of eternal happiness in Heaven is well worth missing out on some comfort right here and now. Unfortunately, most of my decision-making skills no longer take place in my head. That function pulled up stakes years ago and relocated a few feet south to my gut. What I’m saying is, I am an American living in the early 21st century, and as such, most of the decisions that should be made logically with my intellect are now being made impulsively with my gut, which symbolizes my physical desires.
If that article headline had said, “God Made You for Happiness in Heaven, Not Laziness on Earth,” I would’ve joyfully started reading right away. I know I’m not lazy. After all, I wake up every day by 5:30 and exercise for 45 minutes before showering and then leaving the house. Then I work for 8 or 10 hours at my job. Not until I arrive back home do I finally relax and unwind.
But the headline didn’t say laziness. It said comfort. That’s the primary focus of American life nowadays. Yeah, I wake up by 5:30 — and get out of a very comfortable bed, and step onto lush carpeting inside a warm and dry home. And I exercise for 45 minutes — on an expensive exercise machine, wearing expensive, comfortable workout sneakers while listening to expensive Bluetooth earbuds. Then I go to work — in a car with heated seats, air conditioning, and a fancy music sound system at my fingertips. And I work all day — in a comfortable office chair, surrounded by computers, a coffee maker, a refrigerator, etc., inside a climate-controlled building. Throughout the day I eat whatever and whenever I want — usually upwards of at least five square meals per day, not counting snacks.
In addition to all this physical comfort, I have gladly embraced our society’s offer of emotional comfort. It’s a simple contract: if I agree to work each day, pay taxes, and avoid breaking the law, then in return society agrees to use my taxes to isolate all the seedy aspects of life in “those” neighborhoods plus various hidden institutions. I can fulfill my Christian duty to feed the poor and comfort the afflicted by simply writing a check. I never have to see any unfortunate souls face-to-face.
And if the news reports on TV start to discuss the plight of these unfortunate souls, I can quickly switch to one of many sporting events being broadcast and return to my emotional comfort zone. How nice. How convenient. How utterly lacking in any Gospel grace.
So, what am I going to do about it? I haven’t the foggiest idea. This essay didn’t turn out anything like I planned when I started typing. I thought I would focus on the word “comfort” and use examples like motorized reclining chairs, heated toilet seats, and foot massagers. Ha ha, we Americans sure are addicted to comfort!
But then as I typed away, this piece veered off in a surprising and somber direction. (“Thanks a lot, Holy Spirit,” he said sarcastically.)
Here’s an old saying: Christianity comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable. I didn’t even have to read that original article to feel guilty. My own conscience (prompted by you know Who) did that for me.
I’m really not sure what I will do now. But I hope it doesn’t turn out that the comfortable lifestyle I’ve worked so hard to create is actually the equivalent of choosing to take the $100 right now because I’m too focused on instant gratification to wait a mere seven days.
I’d better go back and read Jesus’ “no-brainer” discourse again.