The other day, I was pledging my love to my 10 year old son. I looked him in the face, placed both of my hands on his chick and told him that I love him.
Immediately the young boy heard that he responded:
“But Papa, if you loved me, ….”
What followed was a catalogue—a long list indeed—of things I ought to have bought for him to prove that I loved him.
I asked him if he realised how much money I needed to prove my love to him. He concurred that I would really need a lot of money to buy the things he listed. So I asked him, “According to you, a poor man cannot love his kids!” When he answered that a poor man can of course love his kids, I got an opportunity to explain to him that a father’s love is not measured by how many things he buys for his son.
That was a ten-year-old. When he put his perception in candid words, it was obviously a slanted take on love, but isn’t that how most of us view God’s love? We talk about the evidences of God’s blessings (read love) in terms of the visible material possessions at our disposal.
There are many preachers out there who maintain that if you are a child of God, you must drive a certain type of car; live in a certain type of house; eat certain types of food; do certain types of job; go to certain types of schools, etc. This is a very dangerous position.
For one, the craving for material things is insatiable—the more you have the more you need. With the type of consumer culture we have today, the beauty and the subsequent attraction of products make it difficult to “settle” with what you have. You buy something today that ought to serve you for the next ten years but in one month’s time or less, an improved version of that product would be in the market.
For two, when we measure God’s love by how much we have, we stand the risk of overlooking the things He has already given us as we set our eyes on things we want Him to give us. This is a breeding ground for thanklessness.
Well, I may not have had all the money to “prove” my love to my son while God has all the silver and gold to lavish on His children. But wait! Even if I was the richest man on the planet, there are things that I can afford but I would still not buy for my kids. Even now, there are a number of things my kids want and I can afford them but I don’t buy them to them.
Hey, somebody out there who has kids and ever went to a mall with them. The youngsters sometimes, literally, want everything. A kid who has everything he wants is a spoilt kid. Life is not like that. Normal life is where you are denied certain things without necessarily understanding why.
But what about the fact that God so loved the world (us) that He gave His Son (John 3:16)? And it didn’t end there: “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32 NIV, italics my emphasis).
Everything means everything—I agree and I don’t want to put “but”. The word of God, however, is not understood in isolation but must be balanced out with other parts. That is why the Apostle Paul talks about “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15 KJV). Isaiah 28:10 also talks about “precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little” (KJV). Psalm 119:160 (Amp) puts it like this: “The sum of Your word is truth [the total of the full meaning of all Your individual precepts]; and every one of Your righteous decrees endures forever.”
Putting “Everything” into Perspective
What then is this ‘everything’ if we can’t get ‘everything’?
The Bible says for example in Ephesians 1:3 (NIV): "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ". (Note italics, my emphasis).
The principle place of our blessings is the heavenly realms. Note also that “every” is spiritual. It is not every material blessing. And lastly, all these blessings are in Christ. These blessings can of course materialise in the physical realm but we must not make the mistake of thinking that the sum total of our blessings is measurable materially. If we understand this, then we can appreciate that Christ may give us not as the world gives (John 14:27).
In the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), the elder son complains that despite his faithfulness in toiling and obedience to the father, he had not been given anything. The father responds in verse 31: “My son,…you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.”
There are many things—everything for that matter—that we own but they are in the custody of the Father. For me, this makes a lot of sense, there are many things that I have bought for my kids but they are in my custody, in other words, I am hiding them away from them—one of the myriad reasons is misuse.
We only insist to have everything at our disposal if we are like the younger son who was ready to stray.
From the Father’s reply, “You are always with me…”, we realise that what is important than anything else is to be “always with the Father”. And if you are the child who is always with the Father, most or all of the things you own will be in the Father’s custody. The question is: Do you have a problem with that or do you understand and appreciate it? Do you complain like the elder son in the story in Luke 15?
Relax. You are loved even if the Father has thrown a party to others of His Children at your expense.
Conclusion: Material endowment and wellbeing is not the measure of God’s love to us. This is why the Bible says that nothing shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:35-39).
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Daniel, this is a wonderful, accurate article. If I was a teacher, I'd give you an A+. In the American churches, I see many spoiled "children" of the Father, always wanting more, using material gain as proof of the Father's love. It makes my heart sad. Again, thank you for this excellent article. Blessings to you and your family!