The Purpose of a Thing Matters as Much as the Morality of It

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The story of Achan’s sin – in secretly taking for himself some of the treasure of the city of Ai (Joshua 7) highlights a unique idea: blessing, from a biblical perspective, isn’t really a word that describes things as much as it is a word that describes purpose. The “what,” the substance of what Achan took for himself, wasn’t a big deal – God would in many instances give His people temporal and financial blessings throughout their existence and no one cries “sin.” However, the defining characteristic of the spoil he gathered for himself is seen in the way it is described in the text, “devoted things” (Josh. 7:1).

What God devotes for a purpose must be used for that purpose, or there are consequences.

We can easily spend a lot of time worrying about what we have and what we don’t have, but the question we should be asking more often has everything to do with the way God has defined purpose. Money, for instance, is something that God seems to have purposed for both provision as well as for generosity and stewardship. To see money as something that we get to use to make our lives more comfortable, full stop, is to misunderstand its purpose!

In our Western culture sex suffers from the same malady. We have taken something that is good and created a sense of entitlement out of it. And it’s not that the act of sex or the idea of sexuality becomes intrinsically bad, but when it is used and practiced outside of its intended purpose it loses its ability to be a blessing and takes on the attributes of a curse.

In my life I have to see the things that God has given me access to with eyes of purpose and discernment, not simply with the eyes of a consumer.
• What is the purpose of my time?
• What is the purpose of my health and energy?
• What is the purpose of my money?
• What is the purpose of my marriage?
• What is the purpose of my family?
• What is the purpose of my calling?

Looking through eyes of purpose, instead of simply trying to create a system of “right vs wrong” provides a way of actually exploring the depth of the riches of the blessings that God has put in my life. This, obviously, does not mean that sin can be justified by a skewed sense of purpose, but it does precisely mean that everything which looks “good” might cease to be “good” if I take it and bury it for myself.

So while there are certainly some things that are always wrong, there are also some things that are not necessarily morally wrong but can become wrong by virtue of our failure to submit to the way God defines their purpose.

This is not about the limitation of God’s blessings in our lives, this is actually about the alignment of our lives with the fullest experience of the blessings of God to our lives.

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