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  • Writer's picturePastor Hans Fiene

Matins Devotions: May 28-30

TUESDAY


Hell is loving things that don’t love you back. Hell is, in a sense, worshiping your works, trusting in them to save you when those works can’t and won’t, when those works only scream to you that you are powerless to escape the wrath of God. That’s what the rich man, the counterpart of Lazarus,  discovered in Sheol, when he kept trusting in himself even after he saw the futility.


Hell is loving false gods who are really demons, demons who don’t love you but who seek to devour and destroy you. Hell is loving things that you are certain will cover you in peace but only cover you in filth, loving your lust and your anger. And hell is loving things that you are certain will give you fulfillment and content but that always whisper “you need more” when you get your hands on them. So, as Solomon shows us in our reading from Ecclesiastes this morning, hell is loving money.


“He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.” You want to be satisfied, to be comfortable and at rest. Your greed doesn’t. It will promise you what you want, but will not deliver it. It will tell you it’s just out of reach, that it will finally be yours after your next raise or your next influx of cash. But when you get what you desire, you’ll hear the same speech again. And you always will, because no matter how much you love the love of money, the love of money will never love you back. It doesn’t want you complete, it wants you dead in the jaws of the serpent.


So love the one who crushed the serpent with His nail-pierced foot and breathed life back into your soul. Love the one who will always love you back because He loved you first. Love Jesus Christ, the one who has already given you His love and thus His peace, His comfort, His fulfillment because He loved you before even were.


WEDNESDAY


There’s a phrase that’s often tossed around in Christian circles, especially the Christian circles dedicated to apologetics, that is, making a defense for the Christian faith, and that phrase is “there’s a God shaped hole in your heart.” So this is a phrase many apologists will use to describe the restlessness that unbelievers feel. “Why are you always looking for meaning in the world? Why does injustice bother you? Why are you struggling to find peace in your life? It’s because you don’t have union with the One who is the author of peace. It’s because you have a God-shaped hole in your heart.”


I must say I like this phrase. Perhaps a bit overused, but I think it’s quite crisp and helpful. And it’s very much a concept that we see in Solomon’s words from Ecclesiastes this morning. This restlessness that Solomon is describing. You want money, and God gives it to you, but you can’t actually enjoy it because He doesn’t give you the ability to enjoy it. You toil your entire life to get what you want and then you get it and you’re not happy. You build a towering legacy for yourself and yet, your life is but a few days that passes like a shadow. Why? Why is your life so empty?


It’s because you have a God-shaped hole in your heart. It’s because you’re seeking fulfillment and completion from the things of creation and not from your Creator. It’s because the fleeting things of this world were not designed to give you lasting peace. Only your God can do that. So don’t try to cram another crumbling treasure into that hole in your heart and think you’ll close it. If you want peace, seek the author of peace. Pursue the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Turn your eyes to Jesus, and the love from His heart will heal the hole in yours. The blood from His veins will rid the sorrow that courses through your own. In Jesus Christ, you have forgiveness of sins. You have peace, you have mercy, faithfulness. In Christ, you have the endless compassion and favor of the God who has welcomed you into the chambers of His heart. The One who has filled you with good things has sworn to fill the hole in your heart. Run to Him.


THURSDAY


As a general rule, you will live longer and have a happier and more fulfilling life if you follow the commandments. Pursue wickedness and, generally speaking, it will put you in an early grave. Pursue false gods and idolatry and demons will tear you to pieces. Defy your parents and you’ll end up replacing them with authorities who want to devour you instead of love you. Lash out in violence and the violent will treat you the same. Devote yourself to lust and greed and lies and the people who want to be around you will be the kind of people who shrink lifespans. Pursue righteousness, however, and you’ll surround yourself with the kind of people who will help you build a life where you die peacefully in your sleep surrounded by your children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. That’s the general rule.


But things don’t always go that way. Sometimes the wicked live to a hundred and the pious die at 40 or 20 or 5 for reasons that no one but God can explain, and in this life, He will not explain them. So don’t think that a righteous life is a guaranteed ticket to a long life. Don’t frantically pursue righteousness because you think it’s the key to building a world free of suffering and sorrow, a world where honor and glory are surrounding you. This is ultimately what Solomon is telling us in our reading from Ecclesiastes when he says, “Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. Why should you destroy yourself?”


So follow the commandments and read the Scriptures. Grow in your knowledge of our Lord and in obedience to Him. But do this without fear and anxiety and obsession. None of this guarantees that you won’t go into an early grave and none of this guarantees that you will live free of sorrows and pain. But what God has promised you is that, in Christ, you have the righteousness that lifted you up from the darkness and claimed you as a child of God. You have the righteousness that cannot be washed off by your tears, the righteousness that will not leave you even if your friends and family do, the righteousness that will not leave you even when your life leaves your body. In Christ, you have the wisdom of God, you have the very arms of God claiming you and delivering you into the kingdom where you will live beyond a hundred years, where you will live forever in radiant bliss. So don’t pursue righteousness and wisdom in an earthly way. Pursue the righteousness of Christ and His wisdom and you’ll gain something far greater than a long life. You’ll gain a new, indestructible, eternal one.

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