Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Use of God's Gifts

Calvin's Institutes (1559)
Book 3 of 4 - How We Receive the Grace of Christ

Chapter 10 - How we must use the present life and its helps

1. This life is a pilgrimage to the next, and we should use the necessities and delights of this life accordingly. Lev 25:23; 1 Chron 29:15; Ps 39:13; 119:19; Heb 11:8-10, 13-16; 13:14; 1 Pet 2:11; 1 Cor 7:30-31. We can err in denying ourselves too much (all but bare necessities), or by allowing too much. "Definite and precise legal formulas" won't work to find the right balance; wisdom comes "as Scripture gives general rules."

2. God gives us gifts to both use and enjoy: food, clothing, flowers "wafted upon our nostrils," and color - Gen 2:9, Ps 104:15. Use them for the purpose He gave them.
3. A look at the giver of the gift prevents narrow-mindedness and immoderation. "Many so enslave all their senses to delights wthat the mind lies overwhelmed," crowding out thought of God. [Movies and malls, today] Rom 13:14.
4. We must use this world as if we did not use it. 1 Cor 7:29-31. This keeps us from impatience in poverty, and from indulgence in luxury. We also aren't distracted "from thought of the heavenly life and zeal to cultivate the soul." Cato said, "those who are much occupied with the care of the body are for the most part careless about their own souls."
5. Be able to go without things. "He who is ashamed of mean clothing will boast of costly clothing." Phil 4:12. Remember you will give an account of your stewardship of God's gifts to you - Luke 16:2.
6. Our calling (vocation) also guides how we use things, confining us to our duty. We are able to bear this burden, knowing God has given it to us, and delights in our carrying it out, however humble.

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