Should Christians Own Nice Things?
About a year ago, our refrigerator sprang a leak while we were out of town, and we didn’t notice the resulting water damage for months. It happily morphed its way into black mold, and we ended up having to redo our kitchen.
We took this opportunity to invest in our home. The kitchen is now by far the nicest room in the house. When we’re not traveling or working, my wife and I spend most of our time sitting at the counter in our beautiful new kitchen.
Using my great kitchen as a backdrop, I want to address a question frequently asked in the Christian world. We can find ourselves caught between two different paradigms that war against one another. One says Christians should not have nice things. The other says Christians are entitled to nice things.
Which is true?
The world argues and tries to convince us we’re one or the other: entitled or not entitled. But I don’t think either of these paradigms is fully, 100 percent correct. Let’s take a look at this topic and see what the Bible has to say about it—beginning with the conscience.
Sensitivity to the Holy Spirit
More than a moralistic idea found in children’s stories, the conscience is a real tool the Holy Spirit uses to steer us. We say things like, “I have a guilty conscience,” “I feel convicted,” or “I feel like I should or shouldn’t do this thing.” This internal guidance needs to be oriented around something absolute, and for me, the absolute truth is the Bible, the inspired Word of God.
I like to think of the Bible as “big truth,” but I can also have “little truth” or experiential truth I’ve come to believe based on what I’ve seen happen around me. Whenever an experiential truth argues with an absolute truth, I have a point of friction I need to deal with, and the conscience is the place where that division is addressed.
The world would ask us to sear the conscience so it no longer feels, but we need to nurture the conscience instead, so it is fresh and tender, sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading.
Being led by God doesn’t mean we have to convince ourselves through will or force of training to believe one way or another. It means hearing God and adjusting our belief systems so they match big truth—the truth of God’s Word.
Listening to God
The apostle Paul has some interesting things to say about today’s topic in 1 Timothy 4:1–5:
But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron…
Some fall away by listening to “outside arguments.” Feeling an overwhelming pressure to silence the conscience, a person can injure it to the point where they no longer sense its discomfort.
…men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth.
Based on what Paul is saying here, God obviously didn’t design this law restriction, but what He made is for “those who believe and know the truth.” They know big truth—the absolute truth of heaven. Their consciences understand and agree with God.
For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude…
In other words, Paul directly addresses the argument we’re looking at today: Does a Christian get to have nothing or everything? That question can’t be answered with the yardstick of men; the question itself is irrelevant.
…for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.
The answer to the conflict in our hearts boils down to this simple prayer: “Father God, I’m grateful for what I have. Would You lead me in Your truth to understand what is mine and what is not mine?”
There are things I can have and things I cannot have, because it is the Holy Spirit who leads me. The Word of God and the truth of the gospel become my absolute guidance. I don’t have to wrestle on the inside and oppress my conscience. Instead, I get to follow my conscience by listening to the Holy Spirit.
If you feel that God has said, “This isn’t yours,” then don’t have it, and receive the “no” with gratitude. But if you feel like God has said, “This is for you,” receive the “yes” with gratitude. Make sure your conscience is tender, soft, supple, and able to adjust.
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