Thursday, 21 June 2012

Worldly Wisdom

As a Christian woman, the messages we receive from the Bible and from the world are often very conflicting. 

The world tells us that we need to be successful, ambitious, pursuing our own dreams and empowered to understand our true value. The world tells us that we are entitled to overthrow the authority of our husbands and become the leaders of our households, while simultaneously demanding that they bring us flowers, open doors for us, 'spoil us' with shopping sprees and remember every possible excuse to lavish gifts on us.  During pregnancy the ante is raised even more, as we are encouraged that the men are responsible for running out at all hours to get us our hearts' desires, be it pickles, slurpees or onion rings.  And if the men fail to do any of these things for us we are taught to punish them by withholding affection from them, building up barriers and refusing to communicate with them, and inviting the girls over for a session of 'husband bashing' where we talk about all the ways our husbands are letting us down. 
Granted, in most church circles, it's clear to see that most of the examples I listed above are not reasonable and are unbecoming for a Christian woman, but I think many times we don't realize how rapidly the poison of this world spreads and taints our perspectives. 

Picture this: it's Mother's Day.  You got up early to make breakfast because you all had places that you needed to be, you rushed to get the the kids ready and out the door, your husband says "Happy Mother's Day" but because times are tight there's no card or flowers.  You go through your day like any other day - cleaning, taking care of screaming kids (who seem much crankier than normal), making supper, and even doing all the dishes after you eat.  It's about this time that you sit down, look around at how your day went and think, "I deserve better on my special day," and suddenly you're angry with your husband for not pampering you more and you remind him about how men are supposed to make their wives breakfast and do all the dishes and help out with the kids more on Mother's Day.

Is it understandable that you feel like that?  Yes.  Is it reasonable to feel that way?  Perhaps. 
Does it reflect a true heart of selflessness and servitude that is focused solely on God's glory?  Not quite. 

Now, it's not bad to be frustrated in these circumstances.  It's the sense of entitlement we feel that's the issue, and how our desire to imitate Christ can be overpowered by our own desire to be served.
We feel entitled to being pampered on Mother's Day, and when that doesn't happen to our standards, we feel let down, neglected and hurt.  But I've never seen anything in the Bible that talks about, "Set aside one day a year where you are justified in your desire to be served and where selfish expectations are acceptable.  Don't worry about having a servant's heart on that day."  But I have seen parts that say things like, "Who is wise and understanding in you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.  If you harbour bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.  Such 'wisdom' does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil.  For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.  But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere."  James 3:13-17
The 'wisdom' of the world tells us that on Mother's Day, and Valentines Day, or any other such day, that we are entitled to being served and we should expect it.  But that's the world's 'wisdom'. 
Again, to go over things that I am not saying, I am not saying that it is bad to get flowers on Mother's Day.  I am not saying that it is bad to be served by your husband.  But what the Bible teaches is that "even as the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:28)  We are always to have a servant's heart.  If your husband failed to observe a special day because he was inwardly focused instead of concerning himself about serving you, it is sinful, but our husband's sin does not justify our own.   And to take your eyes off of God's glory, and to shift our focus onto our own pride and desires is idolatry.

We will always be serving a god.  Every little thing we do, every action we perform, is serving someone or something.  The real question is: who/what are we serving?  Who/what is our god?  What are we making into an idol?  And if the answer is anything other than 'God', it's wrong. 

In Martha Peace's book, The Excellent Wife, Martha provides a List of Common Idols ("False Gods") that are stumbling blocks for wives:
1. Good health
2. Physical appearance
3. Having a Christian marriage
4. Being treated fairly
5. Having a hurt-free/pain-free life
6. Worldly pleasures (drugs, alcohol, sex)
7. A child or children
8. Another person
9. A material thing
10. An ideal ("pro-life movement", "peace movement")
11. Money
12. Success
13. Others' approval
14. Being in control
15. Having your "needs" met

The funny thing about look over this list is that there are lots of good things on there.  We should desire to have a Christian marriage, and we should pursue good health... but those things should never be our primary purpose.  Things like being appreciated, being right, loving your husband, volunteering, helping others... these should never supersede our top priority of glorifying God and loving Him.  We can never abandon our chief end, even for a moment, or we become guilty of idolatry - even if we a pursuing a 'righteous' goal. 

How does this look practically?  It's serving your husband and submitting to him even when he lets you down.  It's always working, not for our own gain, but for other's, to God's glory.  It means not ever excusing sin because you are working towards a goal other than God (you can be right in an arguement and wrong in a fight when your 'god' shifts).  It's realizing that some of the desires we have actually conflict with what God desires for our hearts and lives, and submitting to His way, and desire to follow the example set by His Son.

How do we do this practically?  Well, it begins by shedding the worldly "wisdom" we have acquired and replacing it in our hearts with God's wisdom and love of His word.  We need to realize that the only person whose obedience to God we have any real control over is ourselves, and while we may be right in thinking our husbands should be doing something differently, or better, we should always work to serve God in how we respond to them - not ourselves. 

What are some things that can be idols in your life?

What are some pieces of "wordly wisdom" that you have been deceived into believing?

How can you practically glorify God as you serve your husband and children this week?

We're praying for God's grace to open our eyes to the things in our hearts and lives that aren't of Him, and thanking Him for a better way than what the world has to offer us!

To God be the glory, forever and ever, amen!

The Excellent Wife: A Biblical Perspective, by Martha Peace.  FOCUS Publishing Incorporated  Copyright 1995, 1999, 2005  pgs. 60-61

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