Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Easy Life

Frequently when people learn of my hopeful career plans, they ask me why I'd want to go to a "harder job with less pay."  Wouldn't it just be easier to remain where I am?  The short answer is yes, of course, that would be easier.   It wouldn't be nearly as dangerous, the hours are much better, and in general I'd lead an easier life.

So here's a question - when did we start valuing easier?  When did that become the standard by which we live our lives and make our decisions?

Even Adam was made to work in the Garden before the Fall.  He wasn't given an easy life.  Noah had to build an ark and then live in it a very long time with his family and a bunch of smelly animals.  Abraham had to travel all over, fight to rescue his nephew, and oh yeah there's that whole almost-sacrifce of Isaac thing.  Moses got to work in the desert for 40 years, lead the people out of Egypt, and then deal with them another 40 years due to their disobedience.  These Biblical figures did not lead easy lives.

David had it hard too; before being in charge he had to deal with Saul trying to kill him.  His suffering during this and other times is how we got a lot of the Psalms.  One time it looked like he was taking it easy was when he didn't go out to war like he was supposed to, leading him into adultery and murder.  That didn't seem to work out too well for him!

There's no pretending Jesus led or advocated an easy life.
And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.  Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you."  ~ Matthew 5:2-12
Well.  Not a lot of easy there, and this is before he starts really going to town on the leadership of the time.  An easy life is not what generally gets one crucified by the authorities!

Tradition holds all but one of the apostles were killed for their faith.  Even John did not have an easy life though.  His Lord's dying command to the very young man at the time was to take care of Mary.  I can't imagine she was difficult to care for, but that's still quite a sudden responsibility.  And although he wasn't killed for his faith, he was persecuted.  His life wasn't easy.

I can't think of any saints who had easy lives.  Nobody I've read about lived a life of perfectly content quiet contemplating before going to their heroic death before the Lord.  Oh sure, some were more academic than others, but they still worked hard.  And let's not pretend for a moment that dying for Jesus is somehow easy or pleasurable.  Getting ripped to shreds by lions probably still hurts quite a bit, even if you're confident you're going to be seeing Jesus immediately afterward.

People would joke in times past they had children so they could fetch the tv remote or another drink from the fridge, but really, who has kids for easy?  Nobody.  Nobody has kids to make their lives easier.  Every day, the parents around us live far more difficult lives because they have children.  There is no easy button for parenting.

There's a lot of talk in the New Testament about helping to carry others' burdens and carrying crosses and being strong in the faith, but I don't remember anything about pursuing an easy life.

Do you know anyone, anyone at all, who has led a successful and happy life following the easy path? I propose it isn't possible.  I would further suggest that for a Christian, an easy life is a sure sign we're doing something wrong.  Our difficulties may take on many shapes and sizes and versions, but as a group our lives should not be easy.  We should not want them to be easy and we should understand it is not possible for them to be easy anyway.  Let's not continue to buy the lie that easier is better.

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