Everyone expects bad things to be a distraction, but few people anticipate the danger good things can be. Firstly it must be clear what we are being distracted from when we talk about being distracted. The Westminster Catechism’s first question (after which my dear friend and colleague’s blog is named) is “what is the chief end of man?” the answer being “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever”. So when we talk about being distracted we are talking about things which distract us from our mission of glorifying God and enjoying God.
In a more practical way, we enjoy and glorify God by becoming more like Jesus Christ, since this is God’s plan for our lives (Romans 8:29). While we could spend time looking at those ‘bad things’ which distract us from this goal, it is possible that the ‘good things’ are just as dangerous, and if not more so due to their subtle nature.
Leisure, study, work ethic, economic freedom, companionship, these are all good gifts that God has made for us to richly enjoy, however they can be twisted to side track us from our goal rather than help us toward it…
Consider the young man who rightly desires a wife, this is a good thing, however when it leads to him not being able to see fellow Christian woman as sisters in Christ but merely as ‘possibilities’ it becomes a bad thing that distracts him from fully benefitting from the means of grace found in Christian fellowship. Or consider the married woman who is at a place where she is struggling to get on well with her husband for whatever reason, instead of spending time talking to him and striving to overcome the sin in her heart she dives into the noble world of theological study, spending hours in the family study. How about the person who is so striving after economic freedom that they cease attending midweek Bible studies, or spend precious little time with their family due to extra work they have taken on. The examples could be endless.
Paul makes this point clear to Timothy with regard to the office of an elder in a church, however the principle is clear for all Christians, “No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier” (2 Tim 2:4). I know of some cases where the words of Peter have become painfully true, “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first” (2 Peter 2:20). The longer one is not going in the direction of the goal, the harder it is to get back in the right direction.
It is helpful for us to regularly take time out, and make sure that the good things in our lives have not become distractions away from God directing us instead toward idols. Have a (biblical) reason for doing things and keeping perspective on what really matters in God’s eyes is one way to fight off good distractions. Don’t let the good things of life become an end, but rather a means to enjoy God and bring Him glory. “Little children keep yourself from idols” (1 John 5:21).