‘Can you agree that life is seventy to a hundred years, sometime less and very seldom more, and it goes by fast? We know it goes by exactly sixty seconds a minute, but the point is what James wrote: life is a vapor that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. On the other hand, eternity is forever. Even in a lesser, albeit significant way, the kingdom of Jesus Christ is a thousand years.
The title brings two biblical metaphors and two secular ones. Let’s go through them. They relate to the first paragraph. Please think about it.
The first one says, you “strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel” (Matthew 23:24). It’s from Jesus. The gnat was the smallest unclean animal in the Old Testament dietary restrictions, and the largest was the camel (Leviticus 11:4, 42). Straining something was the use of a filter. When you went to drink something sweet that attracted gnats, you made sure you got your gnats out with a filter in order to eliminate the unclean thing. There’s obviously hyperbole here, because the filter should get a camel too, but in this metaphor, it doesn’t.
The gnat metaphor compares to Paul’s teaching to Timothy that bodily exercise profiteth little, but godliness is great gain. Everyone on earth has to focus on physical things, living in a physical world, but these physical things are temporal things, like bodily exercise is. I watch people, who call themselves Christians and they take care of the gnat, but they miss the camel. Their focus is on this life, on temporal things, even when it comes to the problems in this world. How do you see it?
You can see the wrong emphasis on social media. It’s all about this life, and it isn’t important. What are you eating? What car are you driving? What kind of fashion are you wearing? All of this is less than gnats. They are nothing. They are the dung, the Paul uses for a kind of temporal things in Philippians 3:8.
Let’s move on. The phrase, “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic,” describes a futile, meaningless activity in the face of doom or catastrophe. The Titanic compares to the real catastrophe, lost souls going to Hell. Most of mankind missing Paradise, the kingdom of Jesus Christ, and heaven. Greater than that, men please themselves and not God, because they do not receive His Word.
Rearranging deck chairs brings some temporal order and symmetry perhaps, better than what it might for the next cold few hours before the ship disappears in the icy ocean. Imagine while the ship is sinking, the person taking charge of deck chairs announces to signal his virtue, that “he’s going to rearrange the chairs” messed up maybe from the new tilt of the deck. This is the kind of virtue being signaled today. Look at me, I’m tithing of mint and cummin, my little garden herbs (Matthew 23:23), while souls all around are going to Hell, and not once is the gospel ever mentioned, let alone preached.
Nero apparently fiddled while Rome burned. Shame on Nero. It reminds me of Jesus’ allusion in the Sermon on the Mount, not casting pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6). Pigs can’t appreciate the beauty and significance of pearls. Appreciating pearls takes a minimal level of discernment. A particular brand of baseball cap or footwear supercedes eternal life for a lost soul. Is my hair in style? Did I purchase the appropriate brand name of trousers? Are they ripped enough? Can you see the right amount of skin? Rome is burning, and you’re talking about your play list of pop rock tunes, sensual and worldly. This is insane like Nero. There was a reason he was fiddling. You’re fiddling too. Think about it.
Esau famously in Genesis 25 sold his birthright for a mess of pottage, essentially some lentil stew. Sure, he was hungry. Sure, he wanted to tour Europe. Sure, he wanted to fill his bucket list. Sure, he wanted more instagram followers. What about God? What about his parents? Obedience to them? Honoring them? What about the Word of God? What about the work of the church? What about the things that God loves and He wants you to value? This is where the terminology arises, throwing your life away. Esau threw his life away. You are throwing your life away, but posing like your mess of pottage matters.
The Apostle Paul instructed (Ephesians 5:16), “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” What are you doing with your time? Are you just straining at gnats, rearranging deck chairs, fiddling while Rome burns, and trading your birthright for a mess of pottage? You don’t have to. Turn to the Lord now. Like Paul, count these other things as dung for the knowledge of Christ Jesus.’https://kentbrandenburg.com/2021/02/03/straining-at-gnats-rearranging-deck-chairs-fiddling-while-rome-burns-and-trading-your-birthright-for-a-mess-of-pottage/