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Users are Losers

posted Nov 4, 2015, 9:46 AM by Kelly Griffin   [ updated Nov 4, 2015, 9:49 AM ]
Are you a user? No – not that kind. This kind.

Ever notice that when a man runs for Congress, you’re a friend; when he’s elected, you are a constituent; but when he's in office you’re just a taxpayer? You might call him a user – a user of people.

In one sense we’re all guilty. Tell me you pursued your sweetheart out of totally selfless motives. Really? Something in the other person attracted us, and while we wanted to give a lot, we wanted something in return, too. So is it wrong to love someone or select a friend on the basis of some innate attraction? Does that make us a user?

The Apostle Paul gives some good instruction on how to evaluate our degree of “userness”. Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” He doesn’t say ignore your own needs or desires. But there’s a priority. We must also look to the interests of others. In fact, we are to count them more significant than ourselves. That principle helps us gauge whether we love someone or are merely using them.

Like the woman who told a friend, “All Jack and I do anymore is fight. I’ve been so upset I’ve lost 20 pounds.” Her friend responded, “If it’s that bad, why not leave?” She replied, “I’d like to lose another 15 pounds first!” Probably a user, right?

But what is of far greater concern than using people is using God. How many who claim to love Him are actually only using Him (or trying to). John gives an interesting account from Jesus’ early ministry. “Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover
Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people” (John 2:23-24). “Entrust” is the same word translated “believed” in verse 23. The people believed in Jesus, but Jesus did not believe in the people in this instance.

Why? Because they were only in it for what they could get out of it. Users, not lovers. And that’s not saving faith.

Elijah challenges an idolatrous Israel in I Kings 18:21, “If the LORD is God, follow him.” We’ve changed that message all around. We urge people to follow God because He will heal their marriage, fix their boss, make them happy, solve their financial problems or whatever. And He may do those things – or not. But that is not the reason to choose Him. We choose Him because He is God. That is enough. He doesn’t do negotiations. But He does give us the priceless privilege of following Him.

“Users” are those who “worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25). That includes anyone who claims to love God, but actually only loves His blessings. You can easily spot them because when the blessings stop, so do they. Like the family who visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral in NYC. At the candle section, Mom explained that it was customary to say a prayer of thanks or petition when lighting one. All the kids lit one and Mom asked, “Do you have any questions?” Five-year-old Amy replied, “No questions, Mom, but if there’s a pony on the steps outside, it’s mine!” 

Could that be us? Just users?!

What a contrast to Job, who, as his life was disintegrating before his very eyes, said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15). No user there. He was a winner – with God, and in life.

Dave McNeff is pastor of the First Congregational Church of Eaton.

Published in The Tribune on September 19, 2015.