Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith. Moreover, wine is a traitor, an arrogant man who is never at rest. His greed is as wide as Sheol; like death he has never enough. He gathers for himself all nations and collects as his own all peoples. – Habakkuk 2:4-5
Friday, August 2, 2013
If I Only Had a Brain
The last part of verse four, emphasized above, is cited three times in the New Testament and lies very close to the heart of the Reformation. The prophet contrasted the person who lives by his faith with the arrogant whose ‘wine’ (‘wealth’ in the Dead Sea Scrolls) is tied to a kind of pleasant numbness, something that insulates and distances him from the day to day rigors of life. Wealth or wine, possessions or power, no matter how much that person has, it will never be enough. We can always see time fraying the edges of our blanket.
I think it might help some of us – me – to look at this world a little less seriously. It is like a toy, a fascinating, wonderful, extremely valuable toy, to be sure, but, still, something that is meant to be played with, tried, and explored. Faith lets us do that.
If we are not careful our toy becomes our idol. Instead of playing with it, we protect it and reverence it to the point that it loses all of its utility and is drained of all wonder and joy. It becomes a burden. Jeremiah 10:5 mocks that attitude beautifully: Like scarecrows in a cucumber patch, their idols cannot speak. They must be carried because they cannot walk (HCSB). However useful, clever, or technologically advanced a scarecrow may be, it is hard to believe that anyone would mistake one for God.
Have faith in God, Jesus said. Faith releases us from our need for scarecrows or extra blankets or whatever it is that we are dragging around to hide behind. If someone has made an idol of wine, we end up not talking to him or her, but to the wine. A man whose heart is captured by wealth says, “Money talks,” and for him, it does. But a man of faith is God’s scarecrow. When we live by faith, it is God who carries us around.