Perishing in the Midst of Plenty
The movie “Castaway” came out in 2000. I was 13 years old and can vividly remember three scenes. The first and most popular is that of “Wilson” floating away. The second, and most humorous, was the post-rescue reception meal for Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks)—a seafood buffet. The third, and most ironic, was the contents of the unopened Fed-Ex package that Noland delivered at the movie’s end: a satellite phone.
The stinging irony of this third memory has stuck with me. On the one hand, Noland acted as a premier Fed-Ex employee by refusing to open a package belonging to someone else. It was an almost heroic effort of willpower and commitment on display. Yet, on the other hand, Noland spent four years stranded on an island with the very means needed for rescue—but he never utilized it.
For me, this third memory displays something powerful about human pride. All too often, we can be perishing in the midst of plenty yet be oblivious to the abundant means of nourishment. In America, for example, there are 380,000 churches and 35,000 Christian schools. Additionally, 88% of American families admit to owning a Bible, and the average American household owns 4.4 Bibles. On the other hand, church attendance has declined from 70% nationally in 1999 to 47% in 2018. How can this be explained?
At least in part, the answer is an unwelcome one: Christians are perishing in the midst of plenty. We are starving in the wilderness while being surrounded by mana. It is not a lack of accessibility but rather a lack of humility. Our Bibles, like the satellite phone on “Castaway,” remain unused. But someday, we might take one to Belize, where we can give it to a poor soul who doesn’t have their own Bible. We, on the other hand, are way too busy trying to solve our problems ourselves. We can’t be bothered to check inside—those smoke signals won’t puff themselves.
The sad state of Christianity is one of perishing in the midst of plenty. Our brothers worldwide are transforming their cultures for Christ amongst brutal persecution, and we struggle to find time to read one of the 4.4 Bibles in our homes. China is trying to stomp out the church, but we need to rest from church on Sundays because of our football-filled and tournament baseball-packed weekends. Perishing in the midst of plenty is the worst way to die because it could have so easily been so different.
“See that the work of saving grace is thoroughly wrought in your own souls. Take heed to yourselves, lest you be void of that saving grace of God which you offer to others, and be strangers to the effectual working of that gospel which you preach; and lest, while you proclaim to the world the necessity of a Savior, your own hearts neglect him, and you miss an interest in him and his saving benefits. Take heed to yourselves, lest you perish, while you call upon others to take heed of perishing; and lest you famish yourselves while you prepare food for them.”
Friends, we are in the midst of plenty, yet we are wasting away. Take heed to yourselves, lest you perish, while you call upon others to take heed of perishing; and lest you famish yourselves while you prepare food for them.
Don’t rely on Wilson for advice. The feast the Lord offers always satisfies. The Word of the Lord rescues and sustains his people. Don’t allow yourself and your family to perish in the midst of plenty.