One of the great spiritual deceptions is that there is a neutral position or state in which the disciple of Christ can idle. When back-sliding Israel became idolatrous, they swung from worshiping God to bowing to idols. Many in the Church today, think this example no longer applies; apostates do not erect a statue to Baal or Molech, yet think that ‘time away from the Lord’ is not an evil; however, Jesus’ teaching is crystal and warns that a person cannot serve two masters:
‘Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money…’ (Matthew 6:24)
The word translated ‘money’ is a Greek transliteration from the Aramaic, μαμωνᾶς mamonas, and it means any ‘treasure’ in which we place trust; therefore, the nature of the idol is not the issue; idolatry is turning away from God. We either serve God or we oppose Him; rebellion knows no middle way – as described in another of Jesus’ teaching:
‘Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.’ (ibid 7:13-14)
Again, this is starkly binary. Thus, the disciple is either ignorant of Scripture or self-deluded if he believes that he may please himself with impunity. There is no activity or lack thereof, that is spiritually neutral. We cannot think that there is ‘down-time’ in God’s economy. We either serve God or necessarily do evil.
So, what does this look like in practice? Must we be driven or ascetic? Is the disciple forbidden simple pleasures?
Rest and recuperation are in themselves Godly. After being sent out, Jesus takes the twelve to a quiet place to recover, ‘for many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat’ (Mark 6:31).
Thus, a Godly life is not solely about activity but focus; examining what we chose to do or decide not to do through a righteous lens. Paul says:
‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.’ (Colossians 3:16-17)
This is as much to say that we proceed at all times prayerfully – or as the Celtic hymn has it:
God in my speaking and in my thinking
God in my sleeping and in my waking
It is a fatal illusion that we may indulge in innocent pleasures, apart from God and be safe in our neutrality; such compartmentalism is spiritually illogical if we believe in His omniscience. In responding to the provision of most basic of earthly needs, Jesus says all should ‘seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness’ (Matthew 6:33).
Paul would have us understand the consequence of following our own desires is to sup with demons; concluding:
‘So, whether you eat or drink, whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.’ (1 Corinthians 10:31)