A picture provokes a conversation

A couple of years ago, I found this item on an atheist webpage, and it resonated with me. There was some profanity in it, so I cleaned it up, and reposted it on my Facebook page. A brother saw it, and not having Facebook at the time, asked me a couple of questions via his wife. Needless to say, the names have been redacted as they are not necessary. What say you?

Godapprovesedit

My husband has a couple of questions about your post: He wants to know what you are saying here exactly. Are you saying because the world has poor and starving people in it, it is therefore wicked to build large places to worship? If so, how do you reconcile the fact that God commanded Solomon to build the Temple which was more glorious and expensive than any of the above places all the while having poor and starving nations existing then also?

Blessings Sister!  Please say Hi to your husband for me. I will try to keep my response relatively short, as I can prattle on about this issue ad nauseum . Please let him know that this is exactly what I am saying: It is sinful to put time, energy and vast monetary resources into erecting (and then having to maintain) huge, ornate, man-pleasing structures that are monuments to our wealth, our opulence and our comfort, while people who are in need and within our ability to help, go without… Especially when the stated purpose of these edifices is the Worship of ‘God’. (That in itself is a statement that transcends ones’ ‘religious tradition’ whatever it happens to be.)  No, not because there are poor and starving people in the world, (that is a secondary issue, actually, and symptomatic of the first one) but because it is selfish, and self serving, and points to the true conditions of our hearts.

James 1:27 (HCSB)  Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

The thought process behind all of these edifices, almost invariably is to ‘show what we can do’, as though this somehow impresses God…

Acts 17:24-25 (HCSB)  – The God who made the world and everything in it—He is Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in shrines made by hands. Neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives everyone life and breath and all things.

Speaking now specifically from a Christian perspective, I would ask that we take a few minutes to examine the thought process at work here. How do we define ‘success’ in the modern American Church? When you think of successful churches, what is the first criteria that comes to mind? Numbers on the rolls? Financial stability? Name recognition in the marketplace?  Buildings and other holdings?

None of the above are stated in scripture as being signs of success, and all point, if we are honest with the text, in the opposite direction, in fact.

Matthew 7:13-15 (HCSB) “Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. 14 How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it. 15 “Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves.

Example 3 in the picture is the ‘church’ of one who promises ‘Your best Life now’ which as we all know cannot be possible unless one is going to hell…

Part of the reason for this focus on human measurables, is that scripture defines success in terms of things that cannot be readily measured by man, and then cataloged. Things like a broken spirit and a contrite heart (Psalm 51). The opulence doesn’t impact or impress Yahweh at all:

Micah 6:6-8 (HCSB)  – What should I bring before the LORD when I come to bow before God on high? Should I come before Him with burnt offerings, with year-old calves? 7 Would the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams or with ten thousand streams of oil? Should I give my firstborn for my transgression, the child of my body for my own sin? 8 Mankind, He has told you what is good and what it is the LORD requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God.

Most importantly, in my opinion is the command to deny self, and die daily. This is the mindset that Yahshuah/Jesus had throughout his time on earth, and the one that we must have as well.

Luke 9:23-24 (HCSB)  – 23 Then He said to ⌊them⌋ all, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it.

Yahshuah/Jesus did not command us to build big comfy pens, we are to follow his example, grow big sheep, and then send them out.

Re: Solomon’s Temple: what was the purpose for its construction? What happened to it, and why? Part of the answer to the last question is seen in the example of Herod’s Temple which was perhaps among the most opulent structures ever built,   but was a testimony to all that was wrong with man’s religion (Yahshuah/Jesus was quite clear about that in Mark 12:41-13:2)

Remember finally, that we ourselves are the temple, the vessels that contain the Holy Spirit, so wherever we gather to Worship, be it Coffeeshop, Prison Cell, Hospital room, homeless shelter, park, someone’s living room, 750 year old German stone church or underground Chinese Cave, provided that it is the Worship spoken of in John 4,

He is in the midst of us, and THAT is what matters most… Ok, I will stop there for now, if you’re interested, I’d be more than happy to continue this conversation in person sometime. Blessings to you.

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