How Tyrants Become Gods

Ivan the terrible

Guest Post by Ben Larson

I’ve noticed something about myself recently: there are some ugly tyrants in my life. They’re not people. They’re not evil. They are gifts that I have allowed to become tyrants. Here are my thoughts on them:

The Tyrant of Opportunity
How often have I found myself jumping into a project I don’t have time for or paying for something I can’t afford or losing an entire weekend to busyness? Opportunity is probably the biggest tyrant in my life right now. While ignoring opportunity is foolish, and opportunities are a good thing, I’m bombarded by so many that I sometimes forget that I don’t have to try to do it all (especially since I can’t).

The Tyrant of Potential
Knowing your strengths is a good thing. Knowing your capacity is a good thing. Being aware of what you are capable of accomplishing is a good thing. Laying awake at night angry because you feel like you haven’t mastered every interest and accomplished every goal? Not so good.

God knows our potential better than we do, and – more importantly – he knows where our energy will best be spent. It can be difficult to trust him when we know all of the cool, impressive things we could be doing with our lives. I’m learning to beware when I start to think thoughts like “If I could only work a little less…”, “If my relationships didn’t take up so much of my time…”, “If I could just be alone and chase that one goal 24/7…” None of those statements sound like the beginning of a sentence Jesus would say.

The Tyrant of Desire
In the age of American Idol and the Disney generation, I REALLY feel compelled to “pursue my dreams,” whatever that means. But what about God’s calling on my life? Does it involve chasing my personal version of success? Buying my favorite toys? Visiting the coolest places? Playing the biggest stages? God’s calling might not, and am I willing to do more than just accept it and resign myself to it – am I willing to embrace it and pursue that calling with everything I have?

The Tyrant of Guilt
We need to feel guilty. We’re imperfect people that make foolish, selfish, hurtful decisions every day. But not all guilt is healthy. Some is imposed on us by culture, like when a dad feels guilty for not being able to give his kids as many Christmas gifts as the dads in the movies. That’s a silly, cultural guilt that has no place in our Christian paradigm. I don’t want to be tyrannized by cultural guilt that pressures me to perceive my success, my self-worth, my achievements, or my decisions in a way that Christ wouldn’t see them. A God who cares more about orphans and widows than priests and kings would probably not want me to feel guilty for missing a meeting to give a hitchhiker a ride.

The Tyrant of Money
We all get this one. The true danger of money is that it represents everything else in the list…I can leverage money into anything I want it to be, which makes it the most seductive of all the tyrants.
The funny thing about our brains is that knowing about the problem isn’t enough to make the problem go away…this is one of those tyrants that we can only reprogram ourselves away from through generosity.

What is a tyrant? Someone with a lot of power who makes unreasonable or immoral demands and doesn’t have their people’s best interests at heart. Sounds kind of like a false god, doesn’t it?

“You shall have no other gods before me.” – Exodus 20:3

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