Summary: One may either live for the moment, or live in view of eternity. Christ calls us to live for the coming glory of God.
“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”
The focus of existence for our contemporaries—even for fellow Christians we consider to be “mature”—appears to be “self”—self-gratification, self-interests, self-preservation. Undoubtedly, there are notable exceptions in the ken of many, but for most fellow Canadians, if the conduct of daily life is any indication, it is apparent that the summum bonum of life may be defined by what is fun—and fun is defined as that which is amusing, entertaining or personally enjoyable. In short, the focus for most folk is “self.”
Few people seem capable of taking stock of their lifestyles, or of reflecting on the fact that their focus has become utterly self-centred. Fewer still seem cognizant that a major transition has occurred in society. Not that many years past, western society emphasised serving others rather than serving only—or even primarily—one’s own interest. We esteemed the individual who made sacrifice for the benefit of the nation or for the benefit of mankind. However, today such attitudes now appear passé at best, and perhaps even absurd or bizarre.
Christians are more likely to adopt as role models the denizens of this dying world than they are to choose to emulate the lives of quiet saints that endeavour to follow the Master. Singers(?) such a Chris Brown, who uses crude and salacious rhyming to entertain, or Enrique Iglesias who croons the crudest terms imaginable as a love(?) song, are the heroes—even serving as heroes for many older people.
THE SUMMUM BONUM OF LIFE — How does one determine what is good? How does one determine if he is blessed? Let’s be honest, conceding that most of us think of ourselves as blessed and enjoying divine favour when things are going well and we face no specific difficulties. In short, we define blessing by our personal situation and the absence of conflict.
By this criterion, we are blessed because we live in Canada. The assessment is true. However, when one faces illness or financial reversal or problems in personal relationships, the temptation is for us to question God, doubting that we are blessed. At the outset of our study, it is vital that we establish a truth that is often neglected. In the midst of illness, we may still be blessed if we have a vital and vibrant relationship with God. In time of financial reversal, when our outgo exceeds our income, we may still be richly blessed if we have a relationship with the True and Living God. Similarly, even should we be deserted by all our earthly friends, if we know God—or rather, if we are known by God—we are blessed.
The Psalmist wrote a perspective that is not often heard in our day when he penned,
“It was good for me to suffer,
so that I might learn your statutes.”
[PSALM 119:71 NET BIBLE]
I can only wonder how many of us could speak as did Job in time of extreme suffering, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” [JOB 1:21]?