Anything Else You Worship Will Eat You Alive
“Because here’s something else that’s weird but true: in the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship—be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles—is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you.”
— David Foster Wallace, This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life
The great, and sadly late, Mr. Wallace came so close to nailing it, didn’t he? He conjectures that it is better to worship something above ourselves because everything else will not only fail us, but consume us. While we know that Wallace fairly regularly went to church services, did he ever hear about Jesus? I don’t know the extent of his study of other religions, but if he would have carefully contemplated them further he would have hopefully discovered that outside of Jesus, all other gods eat you alive as well, even well dressed ones. They just do it in a more virtuous and highbrow fashion. Working hard at eschewing vanity can be just as burdensome a task as vanity! Working hard to be altruistic can be just as much a black hole as living selfishly.
Whether one believes Jesus to be God or not, His words and actions proclaim that He did not come to be served but to serve! He did not come to eat us up; whether literally or as a demanding demigod, consuming our deeds and sacrifices as an exchange for His providence and love.
Quite the contrary, Jesus came to feed His enemies with Himself. He came to offer Himself up to be eaten by our sins, our shame, what we have done and what we have left undone. He came to be eaten to death by death only to rise again. In return He feeds us with forgiveness and eternal life—no questions asked. We don’t even need to pay the tip for this divine meal. If we are consumed at all, I suppose we are swallowed up by His love and mercy. Death is swallowed up by life, as Paul marvels!
Unlike chasing vices, or virtues for that matter, Jesus says, “Come to me you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest!” He not only takes our baggage of sin, but removes our burden of having to do virtuous things. The meaning and purpose of life that Wallace sought after is not found in pursuing gods and ideas greater than ourselves, but it is found in God who became smaller than Himself in a manger and on a cross. Even smaller still, He is placed on our tongue. And we consume Him and will rise again.
Come Lord Jesus.