By Lindsey Bell
Jesus wasn’t always popular. At times, the crowds loved him. They loved him when he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey (John 12). They also loved him when he healed their sick (Matthew 8, among others). They flocked to him after he fed the multitude with five loaves and two fish (John 6).
Unfortunately, crowds can be fickle. Some of the same people who flocked to Jesus after the feeding of the 5,000 deserted him hours later when he said things they didn’t like. “This is a hard teaching,” they said to him. “Who can accept it?” (John 6:60). Then many of the men and women who had previously followed Jesus abandoned him. They followed him when he said and did things they liked, but left as soon as it got tough.
Sadly, we often do the same thing. We give our lives to Jesus and expect the rest of our days to look like fairy tales. We anticipate the “happily ever after” and forget the fact that Jesus never promised a life of ease.
The truth is, many of us want comfort more than we want Christ. We want the blessings Jesus promised: the peace, joy, contentment, and eternal glory. But we don’t always want the whole package. We don’t want the hardships or the ridicule or the sacrifices.
Jesus wasn’t soft; neither were his teachings.
Here are four myths we often believe about Christianity—and the actual truths Jesus taught about these subjects.
Myth #1: The Christian life is comfortable.
One of the hardest teachings of Jesus is that the Christian life is painful at times. Jesus didn’t promise a carefree life. In fact, he promised hardships. In John 16:33 he said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
I don’t know where we got the idea that once we decide to follow Jesus life will be comfortable, because that’s not at all what Jesus taught. Jesus taught that the Christian life would be hard. In Matthew 10:22 he reminded his followers that people hated him and would therefore hate his disciples: “You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”
The truth is, the Christian life won’t be comfortable. We might lose friends because of our commitment to Jesus. Family members might not understand us anymore. Satan might attack us by throwing painful circumstances our way. Tragedies might strike our families. God never promised to prevent pain from his beloved.
He did, however, promise he would be with us through the pain. He promised to give us joy despite our suffering and peace despite our troubles. We can have joy and peace because we know God is willing and able to use whatever we go through for our good and his glory (Romans 8:28).
God didn’t call us to comfort. He called us to commitment.
Myth #2: God wants us to be wealthy.
Another hard teaching of Jesus, especially for those of us living in the land of the free and the home of the brave, is that God doesn’t really want us to be wealthy. In fact, in Luke 6:20 Jesus said, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”
When my husband and I purchased our first home, I remember telling people, “We’re blessed,” as if those who don’t own their own home aren’t. The truth is, Jesus didn’t say, “Blessed are those who are rich” or “Blessed are those who own their own home.” He said, “Blessed are those who are poor.”
I think he said this because he knew how hard it would be for the rich to enter the kingdom of Heaven. He knew the temptation of wealth. He understood the pull of “just a little bit more.” Those of us who are rich (and if you own your own vehicle, that includes you) can easily buy into the lie that we’ll be happier when we make more money. We compare ourselves to those around us and become discontent because our house isn’t as nice or our car is older.
Money begins as a neutral tool, neither good nor bad, but it can easily become a trap. Money isn’t sinful. Though the love of money is. In Matthew 6:24 Jesus reminded his followers, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
God would rather us be poor and in love with him than rich and indifferent toward him. The truth is, God doesn’t care about how much money we make nearly as much as we care about it; instead, he cares about how much of our hearts we give to him.
Myth #3: Idolatry doesn’t exist anymore.
When we think of idols, we often picture golden cows or statues of wood or stone. We don’t often picture our spouse or our child or our possessions or our reputation. The truth is, idolatry is still an issue today. It simply looks different now than it did in biblical times. Sometimes, instead of being a statue, it’s money or a job or a hobby or maybe even a person.
In Luke 14:26 Jesus said these hard words: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.” He said this not because he wanted us to despise the people we live with. (There are many other instances when Jesus talked about the importance of love.) He said it because he wanted us to love him more.
Jesus wants to be our first priority. That means he comes before spouse and child. That means if family doesn’t understand our devotion to him, we choose him anyway. Idolatry exists today anytime we put anything (or anyone) before Jesus.
Myth #4: Worry isn’t wrong.
We tend to rate sin. Murder: very bad. Sexual sin: also very bad. Overeating: not really that bad. Worry: who doesn’t do that? We place sins on a sliding scale and avoid the ones at the top. The ones at the bottom, though, we don’t stress over.
If we stuff ourselves at a church potluck, we laugh about it. If we stress over bills, we talk about it like it’s no big deal. Jesus taught something different. In Matthew 6:34 he said, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Jesus didn’t blow off worry like it was no big deal. Instead he challenged us to trust God to take care of our needs. Philippians 4:6 urges us, “Present your requests to God” instead of worrying.
Jesus’ teachings aren’t always easy to swallow, and they might not always be popular. But they are always true, and those of us who claim him as our Lord can’t pick and choose which ones we follow and which ones we don’t.
Lindsey Bell is the author of Searching for Sanity and Unbeaten and a blogger (Lindseymbell.com).