“A man was giving a big dinner and he invited many; and at the dinner hour he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first one said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it; please consider me excused.’ Another one said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen and I am going to try them out; please consider me excused.’ Another one said, ‘I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come.'”
– Luke 14.16-20
This is only the first half of a very convicting parable about salvation. But the point is glaringly clear.
Scripture tells us that our conscience bears witness against us if we have kept the Law of God (Rom 2.15) because He has written His mandates on our hearts. So when we live lives of blatant rebellion: debauchery, stealing, drunkenness, we know that we are walking in sin. We know that we are doing evil things. We know that our actions are not good and do not honor God.
But Jesus speaks to a more subtle form of rebellion in this passage. God gives us good things in life: land/houses, cars, spouses, many good things! But Jesus is making the point here that these good things, these gifts of God, can keep us from Heaven. These things that are good, when they are elevated above responding to God in obedience, become bad. If God invites us to communion with Him, and we need to “check on our land” or “see to our new car”, we are neglecting Him for something of no eternal value. Hence the very first commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me” (Ex. 20.3). Our homes, cars and spouses are things by which and through which we should honor and praise God! And they are things with which we should be ready and willing to part: “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for my name’s sake, will receive many times as much and will inherit eternal life” (Matt. 19.29). This does not at all require that we all must leave father and mother, land and family in order to be saved. But it does mean that we must be willing to; that we only value these gifts insomuch as God gives them to us, and we know that they are truly His to with as He pleases.
The spouse is the exception to that argument – as to marry someone is to make a covenant before God to love, cherish and honor that person for the length of your life. God hates divorce, and He would never require that one divorce for the sake of following Him. But they way in which we love and care for our spouses is directly impacted by this parable – if we put our spouse above responding to God, we are in sin.
Let us not become inebriated to the good things in this world, as good things keep more people out of Heaven than the bad things!