I’ve come across a meme on Facebook that claims a quote from a certain preacher. The message is this: It is idolatry to follow Christ for the sake of a better life; instead we should follow him for his own sake (and not for the blessings he can give us), because he’s worthy.
I can’t vouch for the veracity of the quote, but I think it’s probably wrong. And do you know why I think that, my friends? Because no true evangelist or pastor will ever say that!
At first blush, the sentiment behind the quote is admirable. Maybe it was supposed to be a warning against false motives in following Jesus. But is wanting to be blessed a false motive? Is claiming God’s promises wrong? And is seeking a better life — a better life that Christ himself proclaims, by the way — a kind of idolatry? NO. Definitely NO. Jesus declares,
Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest.Matthew 11:28 WEB
I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.John 10:10 WEB
Anyone hearing these words will never mistake Jesus’ intent behind them: the promise of something better if we come to him. Even in the Old Testament, the promises of blessings, including material blessings, abound.
And so I ask you, Who could really claim that he is following Christ without thinking of the benefits at all? NO ONE, if we are to be honest with ourselves.
Besides, how would we know Christ is worthy if we have never experienced him and his blessings first hand? And how would we ever convince unbelievers to turn to Jesus if we are all just talk about how good, how faithful, and how worthy he is, but without any practical applications of these things in their lives? All the sermons in the world will do us no good if there are no tangible evidences of blessings to back up our words.
A better way to guard against false motives in following Christ is simply to be honest: Tell people that the Christian life is a blessed life, yes, but tell also that it is a difficult life. For there are indeed much blessings to be gained, but there are also much suffering to be experienced. Talk about the call to holiness. Talk about self-denial and sacrifices. Most of all, talk about surrendering our lives to God — of giving him all control, of obeying his Word, of serving him and glorifying him with our lives.
And then we will see who will truly follow Jesus with pure motives. Hopeful of the benefits, yes, but also aware of the hardships.