Matthew 16 v 25 tells us, “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”
When we seek our ultimate meaning and fulfilment in God, the result is not less enjoyment of this life but more! It’s ironic but true: we get the most this life has to offer when we pay primary attention to something else. So by demanding less of this life, we get more than if we made it our all in all.
The good things of God’s creation are meant for our enjoyment. Solomon said, “Here is what I have seen: it is good and fitting for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour in which he toils under the sun all the days of his life which God gives him; for it is his heritage” Ecclesiastes 5 v 18.
Within the limits of their rightful use, temporary things are deeply satisfying. A serious problem arises, however, when we elevate temporary enjoyments as our god. Not only will we lose our souls for having worshiped the creation rather than the Creator, we will have lost the true joy that comes from the creation itself.
A similar principle governs our interaction with other people. Our need for personal relationship is very deep, but we were never meant to find the ultimate fulfillment of that need in our fellow human beings. Only God can perfectly fill our hearts with love. And if we look to those around us to do what God alone can do, not only will we corrupt our relationship with God, we will damage our human relationships with unfair expectations.
There is a sense in which we are too conservative about earthly pleasures and human relationships. Like the tight-fisted investor obsessed with protecting his principal, we lose much in the long run by our refusal to put the lesser at risk in order to gain the greater. Not only that, but like Scrooge, we also miss out on the enjoyment of the very wealth that we’ve attached so much importance to. There is nothing in this world that we’ll not enjoy more if we learn to let go of it. Less idolatry means more joy.
I close with some of my favourite words from CS Lewis, “Aim at heaven and you get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither!”