People and Things

“God made us to love people and use things. Why is it that we so often love things and use people?” (Calvin Miller)

Miller’s question unearths a common distortion of our day. He identifies a disturbing trend. We have formed a culture that places supreme value on usefulness, and little value on love. We have become enamored with the material and reluctant about the relational.

The secular philosopher and ethicist Peter Singer advocates utilitarianism—usefulness—as the chief cornerstone for making ethical decisions. In his view, the right decision is whatever we consider most helpful to the most people (and most helpful to us). He dismisses love and reduces everything to usefulness.  And while some of his conclusions horrify many of us—supporting euthanasia and selective abortion, among other things—he simply extends the common view to its logical conclusion. People only matter to the extent that they serve our purposes.

We love “things” because they require little or nothing of us. To love money, possessions, or even organizations (yes, and churches) requires little of us. It’s so much easier than loving people. “Things” don’t argue with us, disagree with us, challenge us, or correct us. “Things” let us do whatever we like.    

So, we love things and use people, distancing ourselves from the stories, needs, feelings, or views of others. This simple switch, described by Miller, creates an artificial bubble of safety around us, provides us with a superficial sense of control, and eliminates a great deal of inconvenience. It also leaves us isolated, disconnected, and empty.

The church can easily nurture this same distortion.

No longer do we share messy life experiences as we love one another. Instead, we are challenged to be part of a “higher cause,” a vision bigger than ourselves or each other. We may use the language of love—“loving God; loving others” or some such slogan—but our actions (at times) may reflect a recruiting drive more than pastoral engagement. The organization assumes greater importance than the individual people.

We increasingly tend to love things and use people.

What might we glean from revisiting and reviewing the life of the One who owned virtually nothing, built virtually nothing, but gave Himself totally to those around Him?

The gospel grows increasingly counter-cultural.

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13 Responses to People and Things

  1. Annette Holstine says:

    Such a timely post! I don’t know if you recall, but I live in Colorado Springs. Many homes have burned. So far, 32 thousand people have had to evacuate their homes… leaving their ‘things’ behind. People are remembering that their ‘things’ are not what is truly most important. Those who haven’t had to evacuate are opening their homes to complete strangers to give them a temporary shelter. It’s not even close to over yet. Please remember us in your prayers.

    • David Timms says:

      Praying for you through this ordeal, Annette.

    • Christine says:

      Praying for you all in Colorado Springs.

      • Annette Holstine says:

        Thank you, Christine. 346 homes lost at last count… Praying that the families remember that while it’s heartbreaking, it’s just ‘stuff’ – most of which can be replaced. There has been no loss of life, which is far more important! Praying that God gives them His peace in the midst of their turmoil.

  2. Priscilla E Pascual says:

    Thank you.

  3. Tim Ross says:

    Messy life situations. Most of us shy away when someone starts into one of these. Most of us don’t really want to “get involved.” We’d rather get away and escape from these. But when we are in them ourselves, we want a kind and caring ear. Our sinful nature continues to create two faces. Only through connection to our Lord and Savior Jesus can we care for those who are hurting. “apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5b These words point us to the solution. More Jesus, less stuff. “If I speak in tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” 1 Cor 13:1b

  4. “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world……..” so sang Barbara Streisand several years ago. Though I DO NOT subscribe to her personal views in the political arena nor in other aspects of life, I do subscribe to the words of this song she made famous.

    We all need people and therefore other people need us: not as a crutch to get through life but as a friend (brother/sister) who comes alongside to mutually encourage and assist each other not only in times of desperate personal need but when we are “on top of ‘our’ world” to continue to keep each other humble before Him.

  5. David Timms says:

    Quite right, Jerry. And we come alongside each other because the Father has done that for us, through Christ.

  6. Dan Gonzaga says:

    Amen! It is so much more convenient to move and control “things”. If only love were more of a gift than a fruit!

  7. Phillip W. McKinley says:

    Great observations. I have come to really enjoy visiting with the folks in our area. Loving people is so important. Every visit is not just an objective for the church, but rather an opportunity to love.

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