The Spiritual Deception of Apathy

The Grasshopper in the story of The Grasshopper and the Ants, of Aesop’s Fable and of the 1934 Disney film short by the same name, had as his signature and theme song, the one often sung by Shirley Temple, that “the world owes me a living”. This philosophy of life empowered the Grasshopper to party throughout his life. However, when the weather changed, as winter came, he found that unlike the Ants, who had worked industriously to store up food for the winter, that he, the Grasshopper, had no food. Out of grace, the Ants took him in and allowed the Grasshopper to pay for his food by being the dancing entertainment for the Ants during the cold winter. Now, you sagely ask, “What has that story got to do with matters of the heavenly kingdom, in which Jesus is building a place for us (John 14:2), even as he sits at the right hand of God the Father and intercedes for us ( Romans 8:34)”

The answer has to do with apathy. Apathy, in spiritual terms, is the result of the smug, self-assured notion that your heavenly fire insurance policy has been bought and paid for, even if not by yourself but by Jesus Christ, and that, like the Grasshopper, you can sit back and live your life, your spiritual life, without working, because you have bought into the spiritual deception that, by God’s mercy in your salvation, God owes you a living and you can forget about Him, put Him in the file cabinet with your other insurance policies, and party on down through the ages of your life! Unfortunately, far too many Christians have fallen, often quite inadvertently, into that trap. And that’s what this story of The Grasshopper and the Ants has to do with matters of the heavenly kingdom.

{Don’t confuse this story of the grasshopper with the truth that your good works won’t get you into heaven, but (Ephesians 2:8) that your salvation is accorded to you only by God’s grace, His unmerited favor, given to you through the Blood of Jesus.}

What the grasshopper did was put living above life, because he made the assumption that his life was provided for, and that as a result, his life consisted of singing and dancing and eating of the fruit of the land in Spring and Summer. When Christians do something like this they lose their focus on God, a year-round, eternal God, our God, our Creator. In losing that focus, they lose their zeal for the things of God. It is very common and we are called today by the Holy Spirit to remind ourselves and you of this sin, of this spiritual deception of apathy, of misplaced life priorities and direction.

This problem is, and has been, so common in the church that Paul found it necessary to remind Timothy, and in so doing to remind the great church, led by Timothy at Ephesus, about it. Paul did so by reminding Timothy that the gifts of God needed to be stirred up by each believer. II Timothy 1:6Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.

The same burden was also on Peter’s heart, as he wrote in II Peter 1: 12-13, about the problem mentioned in II Peter 1:4, of how to so partake of the divine nature that we may escape the corruption that is in the world through lust, and in verse 10, so that we never stumble, saying, For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth. Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you … Peterconcluded,thus,inIIPeter3:1-6,Beloved,Inowwrite to you this second epistle in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder, that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandments of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, knowing this first, that some will come into the last days, walking according to their own lusts and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” For this they willfully forget that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water.

And God placed the same burden on Isaiah’s heart, Isaiah 64: 6-8But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind have taken us away. And there is no one who calls on Your name, who stirs himself up to take hold of You . …

We certainly don’t want to be spiritual grasshoppers, taking God so much for granted that we set God aside, put Him in the filing cabinet with our auto and homeowners and medical and life insurance, so we can just focus on the pleasures of the secular life around us. But it is real easy to slide into that apathetic state of taking God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit for granted and therefore, believers have always needed to be reminded of this issue, even as evangelism seeks to bring others to the threshold of salvation and across it.

The context in which Paul wrote to Timothy was that of a real mess in the church in Ephesus, even though many regard that at times the church in Ephesus was a showcase church, so to speak, for the New Testament believers.1 When Paul was “reminding” Timothy to stir up the gifts of God, Paul surely had in mind the things that he had been criticizing in the church, expressed in both of his letters to Timothy:

  • Putting high value on myths and endless genealogies which promote speculations (I Timothy 1:4)
  • Engaging in vain discussion (I Timothy 1:6)
  • Giving heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons (I Timothy 4:1) <Halloween is hereagain!>
  • Being guided by the hypocrisy of liars (I Timothy4:2)
  • Forbidding marriage and enjoining abstinencefrom foods (I Timothy 4:3)
  • Majoring in godless and silly myths (I Timothy4:7)
  • Having a morbid craving for controversy and for disputes about words (I Timothy 6:4)
  • Imagining that godliness is a means of gain (I Timothy 6:5)
  • Participating in godless chatter (II Timothy 2:16) <agnosticism?>
  • Holding that the resurrection is past already (II Timothy 2:18)
  • Starting stupid, senseless controversies (II Timothy 2:23)
  • Wandering into myths (II Timothy 4:4)

The historical context was that Ephesus was the culture had crept into the church, and its members, producing a religion in the church itself, that was perilously close to caring nothing about God. Is that where we are today?The local culture in Ephesus, indeed the whole local economy, was built around the pagan worship of the goddess Artemis, also called Diana. Indeed, the main temple is included in the listing of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. People came from around the world to see, to participate in the pagan worship practices, to learn of it and to be a first-hand, up-close participant in it. Tourism, shipping, retail stores, restaurants, religious icons and trinkets and souvenir shops, etc. – and you can reasonably assume, the bankers, money- exchangers, real estate developers, tax collectors, doctors, lawyers and scribes –all thrived on the business surrounding this culture of the worship of Artemis, also called Diana. You can reasonably assume that the members of the Christian church in Ephesus came from that culture, and may have been part of its economic beneficiaries, and certainly many of their family and friends were part of it. Without question, those early Christian believers brought all that baggage into the church with them, just like happens today, and we need to be reminded of that, and reminded to stir up our first love for Christ, to stir up the gifts of God bestowed on us by the laying on of hands (i.e., the baptism of the Holy Spirit – See Acts 8: 14- 17). We need to get back to the basics of seeking first the kingdom of God, Matthew 6:33-34, and then the food and shelter and clothing and our other needs will be provided, but we should never take God for granted and just assume He will provide. Keep your priorities straight! Love God and put Him first.

Dietrich Bonhoffer/Martin Luther/decision to leave the monastery changed history – reformation. James 1:27pure and undefiled religion is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. Kind of like Paul and Peter, Isaiah and Bonhoffer, were discussing!

Get your priorities right in caring about God and the things of his kingdom and about pure and undefiled religion; get out of the monastery if you are stuck there on the other side, and join up with fellow believers, per Col. 3: 12-17 (Read).

Don’t hop away from God, but ant-y up your heart and offer your bodies as reasonable sacrifices (Romans 12:1)