Garn. I hate it when God saunters along and slaps the “sin” label on some innocuous thing I do every day.
I mean, how disruptive can God get? One moment I’m sitting there drinking a mineral water and minding my own business, and the next moment he’s blowing up my whole worldview. What’s a man to do?
Well…repent, to start with.
The other day, I sat down to pound out a new budget spreadsheet. Part of it was for the fun of working with Excel(!); part of it was because I’m trying to paying off my last debts to school and church, and I wanted to project how long that would take.
That goal has been helped immensely by my second job. Pizza delivery is one of those gigs where you actually benefit from the store being shorthanded: more runs and tips for you. (And longer hours and more side chores to do, but que sera sera. I’m not above taking out the trash.)
As I see this happening, though, and as I calculate my earnings, I cannot shake James 4:13-17:
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.
Whoa. Harsh much, James? All these people were doing is what every one of us does: long-range planning. There doesn’t seem to be any evil in going about your life, conducting business, and seeking to provide for oneself.
Yet James uses such stark words to describe the attitude. Arrogant. Boastful. Evil.
Is my spreadsheet sinful?
A few millennia earlier, a Babylonian king ran into the same problem:
“The king reflected and said, ‘Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?’
“While the word was in the king’s mouth, a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: sovereignty has been removed from you, and you will be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field. You will be given grass to eat like cattle, and seven periods of time will pass over you until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes.’” – Daniel 4:30-32
Just like that. While the words were in his mouth.
The only thing that I can take away from this, is that properly ascribing sovereignty to God is serious business.
Now, if God treated everyone the same way he treated Nebuchadnezzar, there’d be over 6 billion people crawling the earth like cattle right now. At first, I marveled at his mercy for not doing so. Then I realized – he has. Look at us. Look at mankind. Greed. Selfishness. Sexual licentiousness of the most heinous kinds. On the moral scale, we are absolutely acting like animals. I am no exception; may God spare me each day through his grace. Far from the claims of the atheists, we are not a society to be proud of. We’ve simply gotten cleverer with our crime.
Heck, our greatest weapons only go unused because the other guys have them too.
So believe me, I am taking great care to consult God on my plans. I am thanking him for his contributions to me – and agreeing with him that everything I get is his contribution. Everything. James won’t let go of this: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (1:17).
God wants this glory. He certainly deserves it.
So I will give him his slice of the praise: 100%.
This is part of a Pizza Lessons series I’m auto-posting while on mission in the Czech Republic. I won’t be responding to comments until I return, but please feel free to comment anyway. Please pray vigorously for our team!