“An ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure is the formula.”
(C. S. Lewis. “The Screwtape Letters.”)

The only high you ever enjoy is your first one; you spend the rest of your life trying, in vain, to repeat it. That is addiction in brief. In contrast, an apple always tastes like an apple should, if it doesn’t, you throw it away. As if dependence and addiction weren’t bad enough, each hit leaves you worse off than before – physically, emotionally, mentally and financially. There is a type of drug often imbibed in our pews today:

  1. A prophetically significant event happens in the Middle East or a statement is issued by a religious leader in Southern Europe.
  2. On the following Sabbath, a somber prophecy guru will find an opening in the Sabbath School lesson to warn the brethren about the fulfilling of prophecy “before our very eyes.” If said opening is not found, the guru will create one.
  3. Having found an opening (or made one), the guru proceeds to exhort the faithful to holy living in preparation for the imminent “Time of Trouble” when all will leave their homes to subsist on an austere diet of wild fruit and brackish water.
  4. The faithful rush home to expend frenzied effort in eschewing all but religious television. Meat and sugar are replaced with steamed carrots and broccoli smoothies. Bibles are dusted off in hope of making it past Leviticus this time. Secular music is deleted from memory cards (but not computers) in favour of old time gospel classics.
  5. The faithful have never felt closer to God.
  6. Three weeks later, secular music is copied from computers to memory cards, the television announces the coming of “winter” and Bibles regain dust while marinated steaks sizzle on the grill.

This drug (eschatological hype), leaves you worse off, each hit deadening your spirituality till every sermon sounds like a boy crying,”Wolf!” On the other hand, some engorge themselves on eschatological hype till they are so hyped up, they lose their minds. One lady I knew more than twenty years ago, left her house to live as a squatter in anticipation of the imminent return of Christ. I would give my right arm (I’m left handed) just to have a chat with her now!

Eschatological hype, like any stimulant drug, seeks to inspire us to act from euphoria. The trouble with this is that euphoria, and any behaviour resulting from it, is transient. Euphoria is like a newspaper thrown into a flame: it burns immediately but so quickly. Anybody seeking to use euphoria must constantly give heavier doses of stimulation. This is why every church’s resident prophecy guru increasingly finds himself making ever more outlandish statements and resorting to spiritual shock therapy.

Jesus, on the other hand, painted a different picture of readiness for His return. In Matthew 25 (and the last bit of Matthew 24), Christ spoke parables that described those ready for His return.
In Matthew 24:45-51, the parable of the faithful and wise servant points out the need for the faithful to live lives of service to God and humanity by treating all with fairness.
The parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1-13) reveals that while nobody can fill every minute with conscious expectation of Christ’s return, it is those whose relationship with Him leads them to commitment that will be ready for Jesus’ return.

The parable of the talents warns that it is the judicious and creative use of the resources that God has given us rather than fearful escapism that prepares us for the Second Advent.
The sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31-46) teach that character is revealed in the way we treat the little people, the ones whom society has deemed worthless. Those who look for Jesus in every aspect of life are preparing themselves for life everlasting. Heaven is not a lottery.

These parables all speak of a delay in Jesus’ return and show that the delay reveals the true character of those who claim to be waiting for Him. It is who we are when we aren’t expecting Jesus’ imminent return that reveals whether we are ready to meet Him. The employee’s true character is revealed when the cat’s away. We tend to be most truthful when awoken from slumber. Many “nice” people are too absorbed in themselves to care about the next person.Eschatological hype always neglects this.

Many words could be written on this topic but in the end, the most pertinent question is: Why are you faithful only when you think Jesus is coming soon?

Why are there syringes in the pews?

photo credit: wagdi.co.uk Come in and take a pew via photopin (license)