Why Is Christianity So Demanding?
If you have a hard time with the claims of Christianity, you should. While much of it makes sense, there are those concepts that seem to violate our sensibilities. Take sin, for example. Many feel that sin is a strong word to describe not only human actions but also the human condition. Even if we can agree that humans are imperfect, that there is evil in the world, and that the word sin is appropriate for describing some of the brokenness we experience, doesn’t it go too far to say that people are bad to their core?
Then there is the expectation of exclusive commitment and devotion required of Christians. There are so many things in life to enjoy and love: family, work, success, hobbies, possessions. Isn’t it unrealistic to ask for single-minded devotion to the Judeo-Christian God and his teachings from people who live in such a multifarious world?
That was the prevailing view of the world Jesus encountered. In Matthew 6:19-33 he talks about how the things we value most affect our lives. Take a moment to make a list of the five most valuable things to you.
Now, consider what Jesus says: “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be” (Matthew 6:21, NLT). Whatever we truly value, we pursue with our energy, time, and resources. We will sacrifice all else for it. We fill ourselves up with whatever we treasure most.
Jesus goes on to caution his audience against hoarding and protecting what can be stolen, lost, or destroyed. It’s a waste to sacrifice for material things because they are temporary and ultimately unimportant. These are harsh words considering that our earthly lives consist mostly of such things.
Jesus has a reason for calling us to an exclusive commitment to God. It’s for our benefit. Knowing how the human heart works, Jesus points out that we can’t serve two masters. When it comes down to God and money (life’s amenities), we will love one and hate the other.
To a crowd of people like us, who are used to getting what we want, Jesus boldly says that we can’t have both God and the treasures of this life. Attempting to fill ourselves with the best of both will leave us disappointed, dissatisfied, and frustrated, as we can never fully enjoy either. We must let go of one in order to fully gain the other. There isn’t room for both at the top of our list of priorities.
When we get married, we are declaring that no other man or woman will have our love and devotion, no matter what may happen. Every day, we must reaffirm that commitment when we deny our hearts’ affection for any other. In a world full of options, Jesus implores and invites us to the same kind of relationship with God. What we give up will never match what we gain.
Jack Radcliffe is a husband and father of four, coach (www.redwoodcoach.com), ministry trainer and speaker, dean of the Youth Ministry Institute of the Tennessee Conference UMC, and adjunct professor at Martin Methodist College. He has an M.Div. from Ashland Theological Seminary in Ohio and a D.Min. in Practical Theology, Adolescent Development and Culture from Fuller Theological Seminary.