Good without God?

On Sunday I heard Chad Lewis of Lincoln Square Presbyterian in Chicago.  As he was nearly concluding a quick study of Ecclesiastes, I heard him speak a truth that is worth contemplating – and this is a paraphrase: “When we detach the good things of life from God, they become meaningless.”

And the more I thought of it, the more it rang true. Why else do men who have the money to access all the good things in life often feel empty? Without God in their life, money is meaningless. Look at the young singer who has been phenomenally successful on stage and is now doing things that make people shake their heads. Or those who have been told all their lives that they are an accident of nature, and so believed that their lives were meaningless, so they kill themselves and perhaps others with them. And think of many examples of how characteristics of God become ludicrous in our culture when separated from God. For instance: stewardship of our earth so that all people can enjoy what God has given being turned into an empty environmentalism where we rue the very breath (CO2, specifically) of the men and animals God meant to enjoy his world. And so on.

The good things of life are gifts from God. When we take the gift and ignore the giver, we are not cheating God so much as ourselves. For it is He who gives the gift its value. Consider the parable of God as the potter – who can take worthless clay and transform it into a thing of beauty. It is He who is of value, for He alone makes us valuable, and He alone makes other things, like family, houses, travel, food and such meaningful for us. We may find temporary satisfaction, but the “God-shaped hole” in each of us will never be satisfied with what He gives us. We need Him to make sense of it all. When we detach the good things of life from God, they become meaningless.

I think the Westminster Shorter Catechism nails it: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” And if you are such a person: Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do.(Ecclesiastes 9:7)

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