I recently heard or read “it is a sin to take good things and make them ultimate things.” Anything that we place in value above God becomes an idol and idols are to be destroyed, not worshipped. If you have been in the Church for any length of time, these statements are no surprise; you’ve probably heard them before.
Here is what we know of Eli. His two sons were corrupt and did not follow the instructions of Moses with regard to the management of the offerings brought to the Tabernacle. They took what they wanted, when they wanted it, from the food offerings brought by the people (1 Samuel 2:12-16). They also committed sexual immorality with the women serving at the Tabernacle (2:22).
In 2:22, Eli confronts his sons about their sin but does nothing to prevent these abuses. The question is why did he not prevent them? What held him back?
We can’t know for sure, but my opinion is that Eli was too comfortable with the way things were and did not want to disrupt his comfort. We know from 1 Samuel 4:18 that Eli was “old and heavy.” Eli was fat; he lived well off the corruption of his sons.
Comfort is a good thing. We are to enjoy good things as blessings from God and be thankful for them. But when comfort takes precedence over obedience, the good thing becomes an ultimate thing, which is idolatry.
The question is how do we obtain and manage the resources we have? In the case of Eli and his sons, there were issues as to how resources were obtained. They lacked the faith or self-control to live within the means that God provided for them. They wanted more and went outside the law to get it. This is clearly wrong.
The fact that the resources we have are legally and ethically obtained does not let us off the hook. How do we manage those resources? Specifically, I am thinking of time and money. Am I willing to do what God wants me to do with these two resources? Can my use of these resources be identified as worship of God? Is my use of time and money focused on my comfort or on fulfilling the commission to make disciples?
The only way to avoid legalism when dealing with these questions is to be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. The particulars will be different for each of us and may even change over time. If we are open to it, God will show us how to use our resources and He will bring conviction when our priority is inappropriately skewed toward comfort.
Comfort is not wrong, it is a good thing. But it should never become an ultimate thing.