MIGHT CLARIFICATION OF THE VALUES THAT FILL PEOPLE’S HUNGER BE THE MISSING INGREDIENT TO GROWTH IN FAITH?
- There is only One Being who can satisfy the last aching abyss of the human heart, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ (Oswald Chambers)
- Religion can never satisfy the deep hunger in the heart of man. Religion is itself the search. No religion can substitute for the kingdom or fill the vacuum in man’s soul. The hunger of the human heart is for the lost kingdom (Myles Munroe)
- Once the gospel is accepted, a lack of depth in its communication, resulting from the necessity of use of a foreign code, can perpetuate a pragmatic motivation, such as the ‘prosperity gospel’ (Jim Harries)
- God has guarded His Word so that only the pure in heart can see its secrets. All other efforts will fail ( Winkie Pratney)
- When people were hungry, Jesus didn’t say, “Now is that political, or social?” He said, “I feed you.” Because the good news to a hungry person is bread (Desmond Tutu)
Text: Matthew 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled
No matter where we turn to or what we do, it seems that our minds are constantly being bombarded with information that we have to choose how to act. Whatever our deepest longings, they are driven by what we value. We are in the world, whose values are not necessarily aligned to those that result in eternal life. What people see as important determines the actions they take. Since the societal goal is shared and expressed through the language, what people habitually encourage and discourage, like customs, rituals and social organization, the Christian has a duty to sort out their values. It is important to be aware of the power of culture that can easily replace the pursuit of God with a systematic set of regulations, instructions and doctrine that incline to operate on a different set of values. What makes one feel good/bad, useful, productive, admirable, unlikeable, etc. are the beliefs and standards of behavior that are rooted in what is valued. When the storms of life threaten, it is the deeply held beliefs that anchor one’s thoughts and consequently the actions taken. The losses and additions that life gives influence us according to our deeply held values. Clarifying the values enables one to remain firm, not drown, while sailing in the right direction. The inner hunger is filled by what people consider valuable. Clarification of values matters because what feeds the soul results in growth to maturity, where people are not held captive by elementary teachings (Hebrews 5:12-14; 6: 1-2). Without that clarification of values and determination to grow toward maturity, it is not possible to transform the culture with Christian principles. Christian living is a value based living and cannot therefore be automatically changed.
WHY IT IS IMPORTANT TO CLARIFY ONE’S VALUES
Values are Guideposts – Understanding what individuals view as important to their lives has a relationship with the desired end. What is valued guides selection and evaluation of behavior, people, events, and is ordered by importance relative to other values. If Christ is Lord and one long for his coming, then he/she will emphasize the standards one tries to endorse and maintain throughout one’s life. Values are like a compass within that point to the right direction. When the values are based on the word of God, then that knowledge is a light and lamp on one’s path (Psalm 119:105).
Values strengthen ability to influence– Passion reflects what is valued. There is greater success when one acts out of passion which draws attention and influences others. To be an effective witness of Christ, light and salt of the world, you have to know why your values matter.
Values reduce tension making one more productive – A double minded person is not useful because he is unstable in all his ways (James 1:7-8). That is the message to the church in Laodicea “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth’ (Revelation 3:15-16). When one is clear on what is of value, effort is directed to what matters. Stress that results in lack of clarity is contagious; it infects others making the outcome less desirable.
IMPORTANCE OF UNDERSTANDING THE TYPE OF VALUES ONE LIVES BY
It is possible to have values that guide one to high achievement yet be plagued with a sense of emptiness. Values can lean on two domains, those based on personality traits and those based on character.
Egocentric ethics – These are values that arise when people are unable to differentiate between self and other. One is unable to accurately assume or understand any perspective other than one’s own public image, behaviors, and skills. The emphasis is on public image, behaviour and skills that enable one to strategize and achieve personal goals. Egocentric bias can so influence ethical judgments to the point where people believe that self-interest outcomes are not only the best but also the morally sound way to proceed. When the members of the church of Christ are driven by personal achievement, it becomes possible to veer off route while believing you are on the right path. It is taken as God’s special favor when one is seen as a ‘star’ who in turn shares their secret to success. The desire to be the ‘shining light’ make some pastors use their family portraits as advertisements of their churches. Outdoing one another whether in business, church membership, and status reflects a search for achievement of personal goals, which is rather shallow for achieving God’s purpose.
Character ethics – These are values based on character such as humility, loyalty, faithfulness, trustworthiness, integrity, courage and justice. Character is who the person is irrespective of the context. The beliefs that influence the person are from deep within and so can withstand the external influences. To be a person of character requires an appreciation of the key questions of life: ‘Who am I, why am I here and where am I going’. The responses to these foundational issues cannot be based on a code of conduct. It is the code of conduct which is a result of the knowledge one has. Jesus' knowledge of who he was made him refuse to be trapped by the Pharisees and Sadducees whose code of conduct was based on what they did. It was not popularity or family acceptance that determined his behavior. “For even his own brothers did not believe in him; From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him” (John6: 66; 7:5). Jesus was aware of who he was and what his mission was and so threats, accusations and abandonment did not deter him.
Accomplishment of the assignment Jesus left is possible if those who become his disciples clarify their values. It is dangerous when the majority of the cultural beliefs shared in a community are built on egocentric ethics. This happens when the popular and charming are used as models of what is valued. Television anchors become moderators of worship services irrespective of their faith in the saving grace of God. Unconsciously, the inner hunger that guides children and youth leads them into feeding greed and other selfish searches. As Plato said, ‘What is honored in a country is cultivated there’, so whatever behaviour people see, they repeat. When the general view of a people is based on egocentric ethics, the church, school, government and all other sectors can have people who are sincere but sincerely and tragically wrong. The prayers and messages are all geared to feeding what does not fill the soul, creating more dryness. The mission that has eternal implications cannot be sustained on thrill, cheers and the ‘feel good’ moments. Growth toward maturity for a Christian is realization that reliance on personal ethics is popular but may not take one to the desired destination, eternity with Christ. The blessings of more and more certificates, higher ranks, popularity among others are short term because they are built on values that emphasize personal achievements rather than character. There is a need to make a commitment to examining our way of thinking, actions, and choices, in the light of God’s word. Allow the Holy Spirit to create a hunger for the values that lead to the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33). The human hunger to count for something is not a preserve of a few heroes who may have seized the moment and lived out what they were made for but for all who hunger and thirst for righteousness. This will put you in a stronger position to manage life transitions and changes necessary in the world. “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, 20 where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf” (Hebrews 6:19-20). What would happen if Christians’ enduring beliefs that guide actions –values- are anchored on what will outlast this life?
It is not the one who has attained righteousness but the one who hungers for it whom the Beatitudes assert God blesses (Bonnie B. Thurston).