Even humility has limits.
Let’s imagine that a billionaire friend has hired the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra to perform at his estate, and he has invited you to be the only guest.
Some of the most talented musicians on earth will fly 5,000 miles to play in an acoustically perfect amphitheater your friend has had built just for the occasion. Your host, obviously a person whose time is in great demand, has cleared his calendar for your visit. The maestro calls you weeks ahead of the event and asks what great orchestral works he and his musicians can rehearse for you. They could even do John Williams’ stirring collection of “Star Wars” themes, if you’d like something of recent vintage.
But you say, “No, thanks. I don’t really want to put y’all to any trouble. Just have one of your fiddlers scratch out ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb,’ and I’ll be happy.”
The maestro’s jaw drops.
You have insulted not only this world-renowned conductor, your generous host and this company of great musicians who’ve spent entire lifetimes perfecting their talent but every major orchestral composer from the 17th Century until now.
It’s possible that you have even insulted the very Creator of music.
It is not always a sign of humility to eschew any of the finer things that life has to offer.
A great and generous God designed countless pleasurable possibilities, from the marriage bed to mountain vistas and from aged wines to complex melodies and harmonies. God created all five senses (and presumably more), and it would be foolish to think that God does not take delight in our appropriate appreciation of gracious gifts.
Far be it from us to encourage a mindset in which one feels entitled to constant pleasure and luxury and indulgence. The tenets of Christianity – and most religions – urge sacrificial giving at times. But self-sacrifice aimed at a greater good is distinct from mere parsimony that masquerades as a pious poverty.
To feel the thunder of Niagara Falls, to wade into a turquoise tropical sea, to hear the opening strains of Beethoven’s Fifth from the third row, to unravel the mysteries in a glass of Cabernet and to view a sunrise from Kilimanjaro can be an act of worship. So can literally limitless other possibilities.
The need for moderation and boundaries duly noted and acknowledged, we assert that it should be a part of the believer’s ethic to follow the urging of the psalmist: “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good” (Psalm 34:8).