All of us have spiritual obligations. Unfortunately, we do always complete them. How do we allow such to occur seeing that we are often fully aware of what is needing to be done? A study of the Scriptures demonstrates at least three things that distract us from our spiritual responsibilities.
- The pursuit of the material (cf., Matthew 6:24-34). Notice that within this passage, Christ points out that we cannot serve God and the personification of riches (i.e., mammon). We cannot successfully do so because our life consists of more than material things. Thus, if we are only satisfying our material needs, we are going to feel a tangible, spiritual void in our life. The theologian, Augustine, once stated that man was created with, what he termed, a “God-shaped blank.” In other words, man has an innate need to worship and serve God. Thus, God is intended to fill that void, but, since nature abhors a vacuum, if God is not present in one’s life, something else naturally fills that void. Unfortunately, this is typically mammon. Things will quickly become our god. Pleasure will become a deity to us. Yet, Jesus promises us that if we put God’s kingdom and righteousness first, God will take care of the material needs we may have just as He does for the lesser creatures of His creation. Our problem develops as we become lacking in faith. We forget God’s promise to care for us. Therefore, when problems arise in regards to the material realm (e.g., unexpected bills or expenses), we suddenly think that it is solely our responsibility to remedy the situation rather than trust in God’s ability to provide in response to our labors. Yes, we must still work, just as those birds for whom God shows His care must scratch the earth for their worms. Even so, we should not allow ourselves to be consumed with anxiety over such things. As we are consumed by the worship of mammon, our spirituality suffers and we neglect our spiritual obligations.
- The conditions prevailing around us (cf., Matthew 14:28-33). Within this passage, we observe Peter actually walking on the surface of the stormy Sea of Galilee, just as Jesus. Perhaps we gloss over that truth too quickly. Peter was doing something that only Jesus would conceivably be able to do! Yet, Peter took his eyes off of Jesus and began to focus more upon his surroundings. As soon as he was more mindful of the wind and waves, he began to sink. In like manner, we become distracted by what is going on within our environment. As such, we are exhorted to be mindful of those things, or people, having an influence on us (cf., 1 Corinthians 5:6; 15:33). Else, God’s Word will be choked out by the cares, riches, and pleasures of this life and we will not bear fruit (cf., Luke 8:14).
- Trivial things (Luke 10:38-42). Within these verses, we see Martha becoming distracted by a good thing that needed to be done. She was attempting to be a good hostess to the Lord and His disciples. However, Martha “went overboard” in her preparations. In other words, though it may have been good for her to prepare a meal for Jesus, she was not obligated to serve Him a feast! Exasperated, Martha asked Jesus to make her sister, Mary, join her in her efforts. Jesus, however, chides Martha, stating that Mary, by attending to her own spiritual needs, was doing that which was more needed. How often do we allow otherwise valid things distract us from our spiritual duty? Brother Maxie Boren once wrote about a congregation that debated for a protracted period of time about what they were going to do with a surplus of bricks. They spent all of their men’s meetings trying to decide what they were going to do about the bricks rather than how they ought to be evangelizing their community. As a result, no evangelistic efforts were made. That is such a sad statement to make about a congregation of God’s people. Yet, how many churches would likewise have to admit the same type of failure? Yes, good things can keep us from our spiritual obligations just as easily as mammon or a bad environment.
Let us always strive to remain focused so that we fulfill our spiritual responsibilities, and avoid the pitfalls of mammon, environment, and the trivial.