If I knew it was my last day on earth, and I could only have one last meal, I’d ask for Maryland Eastern Shore chicken barbecue (which is very different than barbecue chicken.) It would come with a side of potato salad, some fresh sliced summer tomatoes, a warm chocolate chip cookie and giant glass of sweet tea. To me, that meal would be nothing short of heavenly.
That’s a very light example, but regardless, it got me thinking how often we use that adjective – “heavenly.” We describe pizza and vacations, silence and joyful chaos, holidays and weekends as “heavenly.” It’s equivalent to saying something is perfect. But no matter how perfect the meal or the moment is, it falls vastly short of actual Heaven.
I’m not here to tell you to purge the word from your vocabulary; I understand why we use it. And to be sure, God gives His children good things! Every hot meal, quiet vacation house, and dear friend is a gift from God to be enjoyed to the fullest.
But when we seek out these earthly joys, instead of keeping our eyes fixed on the true reward, problems will arise. It’s good to enjoy pleasant things. But if we make our pursuit of these earthly joys our only life goal, then, as C.S. Lewis says, we are being “far too easily pleased.” He writes, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.”
The question I want to explore is this: are we pursuing a slice of “heaven on earth,” and getting distracted from the true promise of eternity with Christ?
There is a nearly endless list of things that we – you and me both – seek out more than Christ.
A better job.
An ideal boyfriend, girlfriend or spouse.
A better house.
A higher income bracket.
A healthier, more attractive body.
More free time.
On and on and on it goes. Most of the time, we pursue these things not out of sinful reasons. Genesis 2:19 tells us that “it is not good for man to be alone,” so we search for an ideal spouse. Philippians 4:13 tells us “I can do all things through him who gives me strength,” so we exercise and push ourselves. Proverbs 13:4 says that “the soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied,” so we work hard at our jobs and seek raises and promotions.
From this list, and many other verses I could cite, comes two profound threats:
1. Lifting anything up in our hearts before loving and serving Christ.
2. Twisting the Bible to support this behavior.
Families, hard work, health, and even money are all good things. But when a good thing becomes the only thing in your life, it becomes sin. Suddenly, we are not working with our eyes towards Heaven. Now we are working with our eyes planted firmly on our own shoes. We start to believe – even if we don’t consciously think it – that this promotion, this relationship, this activity or hobby, is more important than Christ. This is what will make me happy and complete. Suddenly the promises of the Bible seem vague and distant; these earthly joys are things we can feel and enjoy now.
We have taken an earthly, breakable object, and placed it above eternity in Heaven.
Photo credit: Unsplash/Jack Sharp
To condense what the Apostle Paul is saying here: “I keep doing what I know I shouldn’t, and not doing what I know I should! And it’s frustrating!” Why is he stuck in this cycle? Because of sin.
Sin is a trap that we are all caught in. It keeps us in the loop that Paul describes, ultimately chasing after our own little “slice of heaven” here on earth. We pursue things that we think will make us happy, or that feel great in the moment, instead of seeking that comfort and joy in Christ.
I don’t mean to say we shouldn’t pursue earthly joy. It is good to work hard and enjoy the fruits of that labor. But where is your heart in this situation? Are you focused on honoring Christ with this promotion/relationship/workout/ect, or are you focused on honoring you?
Unfortunately, we don’t get to shrug off our sinful behavior and keep doing it, just because that’s the way we are. As followers of Christ, we have the Holy Spirit living within each of us, and He will twist our hearts and our conscious when we stray. Don’t ignore that pull back onto the path of righteousness, or, as Lewis explained, we are settling for something far worse. As great as our earthly pleasure feels now, it is unfathomable next to the joy that awaits us in Eternity.
Take a minute to look at your life. Is there anything in it that you are pursuing more than your walk with Christ? Anything that you can’t imagine giving up – even if it were to further the Kingdom? Is there anything about which you feel “this makes me as happy as I could possibly be”?
Well the good news is – for that last question at least – the answer is no! The promise of eternal life in Christ is better than any single earthly joy that we can conceive of. Everything on this earth will whither and die, eventually. But God never will. He is the same always, and His promises for us never fade or fail.
As Jesus told the woman at the well in John 4, everyone who drinks the water from the well will be thirsty again. Even if I had my dream meal that I opened this article with, in about 4-6 hours, I would be hungry again. And if I ate the exact same meal again, it wouldn’t even taste as sweet as the first time. That meal would not truly satisfy.
But the water that Jesus offers us does.
If you feel that you are seeking after earthly pleasure more than you are seeking after Christ, then take a moment, pause and pray. It’s never too late for us to course correct. And while you are enjoying the pleasures of this life that God blesses us with (including home-cooked meals and chocolate chip cookies), don’t forget that there is something far, far better ahead. Stay the course and rely on our Guide.
Photo credit: Unsplash/Prottoy Hassan
Bethany Pyle is the editor for Bible Study Tools.com and the design editor for Crosscards.com. She has a background in journalism and a degree in English from Christopher Newport University. When not editing for Salem, she enjoys good fiction and better coffee.