The title of this book is taken from the song “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus,” particularly the lines “…and the things of earth will grow strangely dim / In the light of His glory and grace.”
Joe Rigney sets out to clarify those lines with some much-needed biblical nuance. The Things of Earth shows us how, as Paul says, to know how to both abound and be in want, to be full and hungry–all through Christ who strengthens.
The Things of Earth addresses the troublesome issue of how to gratefully receive all of God’s good gifts without being idolatrous or materialistic. Those seem to be the two errors to fall into: either denying the goodness of God’s gifts in an attempt to avoid materialism on the one hand, or forgetting that the gifts ultimately come from God on the other hand.
Rigney explains that we as Christians live “Godward” lives, but this Godwardness can be either direct or indirect. The direct Godwardness is found in the times when we are explicitly mindful of God, such as in gathered worship or Bible reading or prayer. Other times, we are not necessarily explicitly mindful of God, but we live toward Him nonetheless (hence indirect). By enjoying His gifts with thankful hearts, we still honor Him.
I’m reminded of an illustration by Jared Wilson that has stuck with me ever since. If he were to build a huge, immaculately detailed dollhouse for his daughters and present it to them, he would not believe they were actually grateful for that present unless they actually had fun playing in it. If all they did was stand in front of him and say thanks, but never play with it, there would be no reason to actually think they liked it. Actually saying “thank you” is obviously important, but it’s not everything. That’s the indirect Godwardness we are to live in.
Rigney also addresses the issues of losing gifts and enduring hardships, as well as the purposes of God’s blessing (glad, open-handed generosity). It’s immensely helpful in thinking through the goodness of God’s generosity without being laden with guilt, which he admits is a terrible motivator (and not one that God honors).
This is a spectacular book, earning a rare 5 out of 5 from me in my personal ratings (joining Harry Potter and the Wingfeather saga).