But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. (2 Timothy 3:1, NIV)
In modern society, there are many temptations we must watch out for. We are easily exposed to the sins that lure and entangle us when we are barely wary. Moreover, as the media and SNS develop, and we are swamped by sensational information, we are becoming increasingly insensitive to them. Even worse, the irrational compromise that the form of sin is respected as a culture is prevalent.
In 2 Timothy 3:1–5, the apostle Paul mentioned the signs and social phenomena that will appear in the last days, and we can easily observe many of them at present. Egoism is so prevalent that many people love themselves but are not interested in others’ benefits. They seek social success only for their better lives. Particularly, people love money, and some of them use money as a means to make more money, so the depth of their greed is immeasurable. People regard appearance as more important than inside traits and like to show off. Some of them are so arrogant that they consider themselves high and others low. They have no knowledge of God and are not afraid to despise and even curse Him. Some people do not honor their parents and do not hesitate to abuse their parents. On the other hand, some parents treat their children with neglect, abuse them, or even kill them. Many people get impatient, easily irritated, and angry, sometimes unable to control their temper, so they become annoyed at small things and even cause violence. Sometimes, slandering someone easily and indiscriminately is regarded as freedom of expression, and gossiping and torturing the other side on the Internet is considered unimportant. Some people pursue pleasure and physical desire by saying, “Life is short,” and a part of them consider enjoying a sin valuable. Meanwhile, others go against the will of the Creator and deem homosexuality just and natural. Some people claim to have to respect and accept the freedom of homosexuals as a part of society. What is worse is to protect it in the boundary of law. They do not know how it is before God.
Above all, there are those who tread the courtyard of the church but deny the truth and consider the Word of God lightly as they follow the world. They are disgracing the name of the Lord by their deeds, rather than doing the role of light and salt in the world. The people who do not have faith yet see their deeds and rebuke the church, which leads them far from Jesus and further from salvation. They not only tarnish the authority of the church that Jesus has established but also undermine God’s ultimate will.
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (Colossians 3:2, NIV)
One of the things Christians are confused with is reversing their priorities in the goals and values of life. The hope and purpose of our lives must be placed on the Lord. No matter what our occupation or age is, we must preach Jesus’s name with all we have and guide as many people to the way of salvation as possible. Also, we need to make them see our deeds and glorify the Lord by practicing the new command Jesus has given us: “Love your neighbor as yourselves!” When we live so, the blessings the Lord gives will be wondrous, and eternal life guaranteed, and the kingdom of heaven given to us. God said that the life of one person is more precious than the world. Therefore, how great is His reward for us if one person repents and gets to salvation through us? However, the problem is that we are exposed to the cultures and values of the world, so the priorities of our values can be reversed with ease. Thus, we get obsessed with earthly things before we realize it.
In Colossians 3:2, “Things above” means what belongs to God. They are salvation, eternal life, blessing, the crown of life, and all rewards God will give in heaven for our efforts on earth. Those who value them never waste their lives. Since they know that eternal life waits for them, they put their gaze on heaven and use all their resources for that pursuit. They also have the power to overcome temporary pain and loss in their lives.
On the contrary, if the gaze is not in heaven but on earthly things, all the resources will be used for what belongs to earthly things. “Earthly things” means pursuing pleasure, loving money, greed and lust, and honor in the world. Also, those who think earthly things are all that matters often consider being noticed and honored by people more precious rather than God’s praise. They tend to rely on what is visible to themselves and have short-sighted thoughts. They place their lives on the earthly things that appear for a while but vanish soon, instead of true and eternal treasures. They do not know the existence of eternal life or value earthly things more, even if they know eternal life.
Ephesians 4:17–19 strongly warns of the life that values earthly things. It defines such a life as a tragic futility and the life of the Gentiles who do not know Christ. The Gentiles have no spiritual discernment, so they are dissolute and hurry to engage in corruption. They also have no end to greed and live only in pursuit of lust. It records that they will not get eternal life from the Lord.
Revelation 18:7–8 gives a fearful caution to the life that is taken captive by the world’s glory and luxury. The Lord says that those who live such a life will be overtaken by the sudden plagues of death, mourning, and famine, and will be consumed by fire.
The message of Luke 16:15 also contains a warning against those who like to be glorified and praised by people rather than God’s praise. They pretend to have a form of godliness but do not fear God indeed and do not conduct themselves according to the Word of God. It warns that their behaviors are detestable in God’s sight because He knows their hearts and intentions.
“Look, I am about to die,” Esau said.“What good is the birthright to me?”(Genesis 25:32, NIV)
Choosing earthly things is the same as Esau’s foolish selection, he who sold his birthright for a bowl of lentil stew. They despise the precious things of heaven, like Esau did. Esau was famished when he came back home after hunting in the field. Then, he saw Jacob cooking some stew, so he asked Jacob to let him have some of it. Jacob said that Esau should sell his birthright for it. He accepted it too readily because he despised his birthright. He considered it worthless that the promise that God would make Abraham’s offspring prosperous and as many as stars in the sky. Jacob knew what was more precious, even though it was wrong to outwit his brother by deception. In the end, Esau became the ancestor of the Gentiles with his foolish and ignorant choice, and Jacob became the father of the Israelites, whom God has chosen.
Luke 8:34–37 also has a parable of the fools who had forsaken precious value for a small thing. One day, Jesus came to the region of the Gerasenes on the other side of Galilee. Jesus saw a man who was demon-possessed. The demon was called Legion because many demons had gone into the man. Jesus commanded the demons to come out of the man, and they immediately came out of him and went in a large herd of pigs. The herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned. What Jesus had done in the region was reported throughout the town and countryside. So, all the people of the region came out and found the demon-possessed man and were afraid of what had happened to him. Then, they asked Jesus to leave them. They were worried about the economic loss from the death of the pig herd and worried that this would happen again. Let’s look at their decision. How foolish was their request for Jesus to leave, the Lord of life and the healer, because of the economic loss that may have occurred again! Jesus was standing before them, but they did not know the value of the kingdom of heaven. They were foolish like Esau, who despised the source of blessing.
We also need to make sure we are not foolish like Esau and the people of Gerasenes. We should examine if we put priority on profit just before our sight, instead of true and eternal value. That is why the loss from the reversed priorities is too great and fatal. We should always pray that the priorities are rightly placed in our lives so that we do not make a foolish decision, like they did. We must ask for the Holy Spirit to look into our hearts, and pray that we do not fall into temptation. Also, meditation on the Bible should be the highest priority in our daily work. The Scripture is the only way to get deep insight into the right value in the world, where corrupt and worthless culture seems to be important.