A Great Threat to Spiritual Health

Kyle Bartholic   -  

One of the greatest challenges to reading the Bible is understanding how it applies to us in our modern world. We read stories of the prophets in the OT or Apostles in the NT, and their experiences and contexts feel very distant from ours. And for a good reason, their contexts are distant from us. They spoke different languages, lived in different cultures, and had different expectations for the world around them. All of this can make it hard to relate to the characters we find in the Bible. So, we tend to do one of two things; we either make them into pseudo-messiahs to which we will never measure up or court jesters that only get to play the fool. The only Messiah in the Bible is Jesus. So the other characters cannot fill the role of savior. But does that only leave them to play the fool?


It can be a real temptation to simply pull the rug out from under characters who don’t measure up. Peter had a habit of making bold, brash, and foot-in-mouth statements, yet, Jesus gave him a critical role in building the church. The Israelite people in the exodus can easily become a figure of the fool, and as we read their story, we can unconsciously find ourselves saying, “I would never have been unfaithful like them.” Or, we might say something like, “How could they have been so foolish? Just look at all that God did for them?!?”


Yet, by the grace of God, he did not give us accounts in the Bible that are all polished up or neat and orderly. Why? Because if we are honest, we are not all that different than those we read about in the Bible, and we need those accounts to help us see ourselves clearly. How do we avoid the error of pulling the rug out from under Biblical characters? Ask this question, “How am I like them?”  


The people of Israel found themselves enslaved in Egypt for some 400 years. They first came to Egypt under the protection of Joseph during a great famine. Then, as they settled in, Pharoah became fearful of the size of their community and influence and enslaved them. Eventually, God would work in a mighty way through Moses to free Israel and lead them to a land of milk and honey. The exodus didn’t go to plan. The people had waves of faithfulness and failure. Sounds a little like you and me, right? One of the greatest threats to their journey is complacency. At one point, God was literally providing them bread from heaven, and what did they want? The pots of meat they had in Egypt… while they were enslaved (Exod. 16). God was literally intervening by giving them their daily bread, and they were so discontent that complacency started to take hold, and they longed for something far inferior to what was in front of them.


But, if we’re honest, we’re a lot like them, aren’t we? We are so prone to discontentment and comparison. We see what others have or idolize the past, and that quickly turns into complacency. And complacency is a thief that robs us of joy, peace, and intimacy with God. Yet, God works hard to break us out of our complacency. He did it for Israel, and he does it for us. Why? Because if it were up to us, we would eventually all throw our hands up and say, “This is just how it is, and it will never be different.”


If we allow ourselves to ask the question, “How am I like them?” in the story of the exodus, one of the things we will find is that the greatest threat to our spiritual health is not some grandiose proclivity for sin. It is instead the speed at which we become complacent with the amazing things of God and say, “It’s not enough.”


Maybe our prayer today should be, “Lord, help me not to grow complacent.”