I had Rather Be in Church?

     You can tell a lot about people by looking at the bumper stickers. You can tell that they have kids if they are the proud parent of an honor roll students. You can tell what their political leanings are. You can also tell what people’s likes and dislikes are. You can tell what their other car is. Sometimes it is not a car at all but a bicy­cle or a boat or a plane. You can also tell what they would like to be doing. Some would rather be fishing. Some would rather be golfing. Some would rather be camping. If the psalmist had a bumper sticker it would say, "I'd rather be in church." When he says, "How lovely is your dwelling place, 0 Lord of hosts!" he is probably referring to the temple. He says, "My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God." He also says, "I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than live in the tents of wickedness." We can paraphrase, "I'd rather be in church!"

    "I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than live in the tents of wickedness." The thing I want to know is where are these tents of wickedness? If we are going to make a comparative judgment we need to know where those tents of wickedness are. Are they nearby or are they far away? The tents of wickedness are closer than you think. If you are not care­ful you may find them in your own heart.

     So what are these tents of wickedness? One of them is the tent of self-reliance. We usually think of self-reliance as a good thing. And it is a good thing to not have to be overly dependent on other people. But radical self-reliance can be a form of pride. It is when I person tries to live life all by themselves without trusting in anyone else. The problem is that humans were not made to be totally and radically self-reliant. We were made to depend on each other. We were also made to depend of God. In the house of God we depend on one another. We lean on our brothers and sisters in Christ. In the house of God we lift one another up. And in the church we all lean on and depend on God and "go from strength to strength."

      Another tent of wickedness is the tent of materialism. A lot of people in our society dwell in this tent. The problem is that this tent can fall all too easily. Recent eco­nomic events have shown that living for material gain is an endless treadmill and leads nowhere. Keeping up with the Joneses is a useless endeavor. The problem with materialism is that it puts value on the wrong things. We should value people not things. We should love people and use things. But materialism uses people and loves things. Materialism is really the wor­ship of material possessions. But material possession cannot save you. If you wor­ship the material it will let you down. In the House of God we love people. And through love God cares for us. As the psalmist says "Behold our shield, 0 God." I would rather dwell in the house of God. Another tent of wickedness is the tent of self-centeredness. Many people live in this tent. They love thinking only of them­selves. They do not invest their lives in others. In the tent of self-centeredness real relationship are never developed. The end result is loneliness and emptiness. Love of self without love of others is not real love. When you try to love life for yourself on your own you end up alone. If you have never really been there for someone else then who will be there for you? The psy­chological term for excessive self-love is Narcissism. It comes from the myth of Narcissus. Narcissus loves himself and distains all others. The gods punish him by making him fall in love with his own re­flection in a pond. And in the end he per­ishes there staring at himself.

     In the tents of wickedness every person is an Island. But in the house of God we are a community. In the house of the Lord we love our neighbor and care for their needs. In the house of the Lord we invest our­selves in others and form meaningful rela­tionships with one another and with God. After taking a good look at this tent of wickedness I would rather be in church! The psalmist said, "I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than live in the tents of wickedness." The tents of wickedness are all around us. Those who dwell in them are empty and alone and without help. They search for some­thing real and lasting and end up relying on themselves and things and investing in nothing real. But "Happy are those who live in your house, ever singing your praise. Happy are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion." I had rather be in church. What about you?

 

Reprinted with permission of David Setzer