Stadiums, Malls, and Me – OH MY!

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Qatar, 2022.  If you’ve never heard of the State of Qatar, you will in the near future.  Now I don’t want to spend too much time focusing on their “greatness”, but before I move on, I would like to mention a wiki-quote about this powerful monarchy.  “Qatar has the world’s third largest natural gas reserves and oil reserves in excess of 25 billion barrels, which have fueled Qatar to become the world’s richest country per capita and achieve the highest human development in the Arab World and 36th highest globally; furthermore, it is recognized as a high income economy by the World Bank and also the 19th most peaceful country in the world.”  Not a bad resume if you ask me.  2022 in Qatar is significant because they will be hosting the FIFA 2022 World Cup Soccer Tournament.  The above picture is the Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, which may be chosen to host the 2022 WCST.  This is a gorgeous building with the latest in high-end technology.  Gazing on the picture above gives you just a glimpse of how mesmerizing this facility can be.  

Now we can imagine many other football, baseball and basketball stadiums around the world and in our backyard (The Big House – Michigan Stadium).  How many billions of dollars are spent on housing recreation?  Now if you’re not into sports that much, let me take a poke at something else.  Malls.  Have you heard of the Mall of America?  Did you know it employs close to 12,000 people?  Did you know this facility has a floor area of 2,500,000 sq ft?  To give perspective, you could put close to 93 First Lutheran Churches and Preschool Daycares inside the Mall of America!

Jesus says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21 ESV)  How much money do we spend on tickets for sporting events (including our own children’s school sports events), for music concerts, for opportunities to see someone “famous”?  Likewise, how much do we spend to go to church?  Do we purchase a ticket on StubHub to take Holy Communion or to receive forgiveness from the Pastor?  Is there a cover charge to get in the door of the church?

There is a systemic problem that I see in the people of God.  What is it?  I believe it is as simple as idolatry. “[LAW]You shall have no other gods before me.  You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  You shall not bow to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, [GOSPEL] but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” (Exodus 20:3-6)  Jealousy is a part of the vocabulary of love.  The “jealousy” of God demands exclusive devotion to Himself (Exodus 34:14; Deuteronomy 4:24; 32:16, 21; Joshua 24:19; Psalm 78:58; 1 Corinthians 10:22; James 4:5) and delivers judgment to all who oppose Him (Deuteronomy 29:20; 1 Kings 14:22; Psalm 79:5; Isaiah 42:13; 59:17; Ezekiel 5:13; 16:38; 23:25; 36:5-6; Nahum 1:2; Zephaniah 1:18; 3:8).  Don’t just take my word for it, read these Scripture texts to see how God really feels about our love or hate to Him.  Heavy stuff to all of us who are not God (that makes ALL OF US).

So where do we go from here?  What can we do?  What needs to change in my life?  I love my kids, so how can I support them in their extra-curricular activities without excess?  How can I shop at stores without going overboard?  How can I stay off the slippery slope of myself?  Jesus sums it up for us.  He says, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40 ESV)  Let’s go back to the above questions.  “How can I support [my kids] in their extra-curricular activities without excess?”  You can show them the altar of God is more important than the altar of the baseball mound.  You can live by example of worshipping the God of the universe with your heart, soul and mind.  You can teach the character of integrity to your children by being honest in all of your dealings, especially when you will lose something of value.  “How can I shop at stores without going overboard?”  Maybe this wouldn’t be an issue if our going “overboard” is for someone other than ourselves.  Maybe we could love our neighbor by giving them our best things.  Maybe we could be Jesus to “the least of these” by stepping out of our comfortable lives and entering into uncharted territory.  Perhaps our idolatry isn’t so complex.  Maybe there’s One who knows what we’re up against?

Take a look at your life, the life you are sharing with others and determine for yourself, based on the standard of Scripture, am I worshiping something or someone other than God?  How much time do I devote to eternal matters?  How much money do I spend on things that moths eat and rust destroys?  How many clothes do I have in my drawers, closets or storage that I will never wear?  How does my 401K portfolio look?  Is God calling me to take a withdrawal to invest in something that won’t give a financial return, but make an eternal investment in someone’s salvation?  Where is your T(t)reasure?  Where is your L(l)ove?

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