1) Your boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, or wife.
Romantic love is good. God made it when He made the first humans in His image. He created Adam, and then He bonded him with a helper whom Adam named “Eve.” God began the leaving of parents to join a husband or a wife, the thing we call “marriage,” right there. He authored romance and designed what it should lead to.
But it is not as good as the love of God in Christ. It was never intended to be. In the New Testament God tells us that when a husband lovingly cares for a wife and when a wife respectfully submits to that loving husband, a reality is hinted at that is better than the hint itself.
The relationship between the insanely loving Jesus and His insanely loved people.
The people whom Jesus has saved should delight in Him the way a good wife delights in a good husband. A healthy marriage is a decent shadow of how wonderful Jesus’ relationship to His people is. He’s good, faithful, powerful, and holy. He’s always righteous and never petty. He is always about the good and never about the wicked. He’s the husband not even the best husbands can truly be yet, and he makes His people into the bride they should really be for Him.
Now, by comparison, what does the guy you’ve been dating for six months whom you met at work have to offer?
I’m being a little tongue in cheek, but the bedrock, unshakeable truth is this: The best, most powerful pangs of passionate romantic love are at best only a sneak peak of the radial mercy and grace we can taste in Jesus.
2) An education.
I don’t know if it was The Cosby Show or Welcome Back Kotter or those “Knowledge is Power” PSA’s, but something somewhere started the permeating idea in American culture, which is by now virtually everywhere, that education is “the key.”
There’s a letter to a church in the New Testament, a church filled with people who apparently wanted to be smart and to be seen as smart. The letter is 1 Corinthians, and in it one of the Apostles responsible for spreading the Good News of Jesus says that God loves real wisdom, His wisdom, but that the wisdom of the world won’t get you very far with Him
Now, God made the world. So is it wrong to major in biology and study the life forms He made? Or geology and study His rocks and minerals? Sociology? English Literature? Is it wrong to read a book on Apartheid or the Mariana Trench or hot air balloon travel, just to learn?
No. Paul doesn’t chide them for learning. He chides them for loving and resting their hopes in the wisdom of the world rather than the wisdom of God in the Gospel.
All learning, all education, is second or third or fourth best to Jesus and His forgiveness. But the wisdom of the world, its self-running machine of cool new ideas and ways to sound smarter than the other guy, is like 986th best.
Whatever a good and true and Godly education can offer you pales in comparison to the eternal peace with God offered in Christ. And whatever a flimsy and pretentious education offers you might as well be a half eaten black jelly bean next to the unending wedding banquet Jesus invites us to.
God loves real wisdom, and knowledge is good. But we should never put our hopes in knowledge, we should know the difference between worldly wisdom and Godly wisdom, and we should never mistake knowledge in its own sake for the One worth truly knowing.
Mo $, mo problems, right?
That said, money is a fleeting thing in at least two ways: It can be taken from you in this life very quickly, and almost all of what it can buy you will be left here to decompose while you await the day of judgment before God.
One day, even as a believer in Christ washed clean by His blood, I’ll answer for what I’ve done with my time and money and gifts in this life.
My Sony television and all 9 seasons of The Office won’t be there to comfort me.
But in addition to the seriousness and healthy fear that that truth should bring to the surface of my mind, I should also be glad about meeting Jesus face to face. I should ask Him to prepare me for it, help me love Him in advance of it, and pray that He might soften my heart to the point where I’d give away everything my money has bought me now for Him.
Will He ask me to give up all my stuff?
Maybe. I simply don’t know.
Is it wrong to have money and the things it buys?
No, not intrinsically. But Jesus Himself and His Apostle Paul said that being rich was dangerous. A snare. That it made it hard to enter the Kingdom of God.
Since we have fleshly, short-sighted eyes, flat panel TVs and BMWs can look more fun than Jesus.
They turn back into dust; He doesn’t. They don’t love; He laid down Himself for rebellious punks because He adored them. They get boring; it takes an eternity to learn how good He is. Their colors and sensations came from Him, are derivative; He is wholly original.
There are nice things, pleasant gifts that Jesus is better than. Children, a sunny day, a spouse, or a good meal would fall into that category.
There are sinful things that Jesus is better than. The temporary warmth of drunkenness or the weekly new toys that greed causes someone to buy would fall into that one.
But the point I’m trying to make is that He’s better. He’s more unending, more exciting, more worthy of the praise and the gladness and the fervor that comes from being happy in something.
He’s more bright and good and beautiful and creative and true and honest and knowing and compassionate and sacrificial.
He’s simply better.