Comfort and the Cross

Leslie and I came up with a budget last night.

Sitting down to crunch numbers has been something we’ve been meaning to do for months now, as a practice of responsible stewardship, and have just never ‘gotten around to it.’ I’m pretty satisfied with where we came down on spending, I suppose. But what was eating at me late last night (and what in the last few minutes has been acutely intensified) is my heart’s desire for comfort, as revealed by our budget planning process.

When I look at my salary, and particularly when it comes to thinking about giving above and beyond a tithe, to my shame I am beset with a concern not to give so much that life might become uncomfortable, uncertain, or insecure financially. I am realizing that this frame of mind and attitude of heart are complete incongruent with the Cross.

I just read the following in Stott’s, The Cross of Christ:

“[Christians are faced with a choice] between comfort and suffering. By asking for thrones of glory, James and John were wanting comfortable security in addition to honor and power. Following Jesus, they had become vagrants, even vagabonds. Did they miss their pleasant home? When Jesus replied to their question with a counterquestion as to whether they could share his cup and his baptism as well as his throne, their [reply] was a glib ‘we can’ (Mk 10:38-39). But surely they did not understand. They were day-dreaming about the goblets of wine at the Messianic banquet, preceded by the luxurious pre-banquet baths, which Herod was known to love. Jesus, however, was referring to his sufferings. They would indeed share his cup and his baptism, he said, without enlightening them. For James was to lose his head at the hand of Herod Antipas, and John was to suffer a lonely exile.

The spirit of James and John lingers on, especially in us who have been cushioned by affluence. It is true that inflation and unemployment have brought to many a new experience of insecurity. Yet we still regard security as our birthright and ‘safety first’ as a prudent motto. Where is the spirit of adventure, the sense of uncalculating solidarity with the underprivileged? Where are the Christians who are prepared to put service before security, compassion before comfort, hardship before ease? Thousands of pioneer Christian tasks are waiting to be done, which challenge our complacency and call for risk.

Insistence on security is incompatible with the way of the cross. What daring adventures the incarnation and the atonement were! What a breach of convention and decorum that Almighty God should renounce his privileges in order to take human flesh and bear human sin! Jesus had no security except his Father. So to follow Jesus is always to accept at least a measure of uncertainty, danger and rejection for his sake” (280-1).

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3 thoughts on “Comfort and the Cross”

  1. Very interesting. This has been a longing of mine, to live simply. But far to often I cave into the ways of the world. Sometimes certain people can encourage that, in my opinion, evil desire. God could have sent Christ to this earth to be born into any social class he wanted but he was born into a simple, humble home. Not one of luxury or dare we say even comfortable extras. If you are moved to give? Give. Proverbs 30:7-9

  2. Great post Bryan. We so often look at James and John and scoff “the nerve of them, asking for something like that! What were they thinking?”

    They weren’t thinking any differently than we do, except that we would probably not only ask to sit next to Jesus, but to have the keys to the BMW and anything else we could set our eyes on.

    Despite the many blessings I have, it is often hard not to pull them to my chest and say “mine” rather than say thank you God (you don’t even have to write him a note!) and let go of them as easily as they came to me.

  3. We both desire, and therefore do, live a simple life. But we have definitely struggled with that balance between savings and giving. I would rather not have much of a savings account at all–or be saving for a particular purpose (such as when we were saving for seminary, or now, when we may be saving for more education…) I haven’t really made my case very well before, though, and I think I will read the book.

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