Self-denial seems to be a quaint concept. Why save for a new refrigerator when you can have 18 months at no interest? Why be satisfied with four good pairs of shoes when Walmart has a pair on clearance in your size? Why not take freebies when the government is just handing them out?
I open my mailbox, and the gloss screams out “excess.” The Sunday paper spills it on my living room floor. The television ads promote it every 13 minutes. The consumer culture feeds it. Social media shuns it.
It’s in the 44-ounce Big Gulp.
Or the bottle of Scotch sold by Costco that costs $17,000.
Or Dave’s Hot ‘N Juicy ¾ Pound Triple Burger at Wendy’s, packing a mere 1,120 calories
Or the jacked-up Hummer with chromed 22-inch rims that’s never seen a dirt road
Or the 75-inch television on sale for $1299. Free shipping of course.
We have an excess in our self-projection, with nails and hair and clothing and automobiles.
More love, less effort
And excess isn’t just in our cultural vernacular of possessions.
We are excessive in our hook ups and our break ups. We want more love without effort.
We want more money without work, more pleasure with less inconvenience.
It seems the four letter word no one wants to use is Deny.
We don’t hear it in the media, as our culture is all about getting their rights, their benefits, their moment. Sadly, we don’t hear it from the pulpit, as this is not a popular message. Our gospel is shrouded in prosperity and shuns poverty.
Christians are to told to “Deny yourself”
The lessons of hard work, faithful service, and putting others first are lost. We simply don’t tolerate denial in a modern culture.
We don’t hear it in the workplace. There isn’t a culture of turning the other cheek, or letting others go first, or taking up your cross.
It’s not really a surprise, because Christ himself told us that his principles would not be of this world, that we would be laughed and mocked. That we would be misunderstood. 1 Peter 2. 11 says “Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it.
There is a peace to be found
But we all know in our hearts that there is simplicity in a lack of complexity. There is peace to found in the ease of letting go.
Jesus wants us to deny ourselves – our selfish wants, our material lusts, our immaterial pettiness – and seek first His ways.
Somewhere inside we hear a voice calling. The burden of more will ultimately drive us to destruction — or drive us to less.