As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord… Joshua 24:15
I took my son to college orientation this past weekend. He’s the first in our family to “go away” to college in at least a generation. We were barraged with information about college life, including what to do when our freshman gets drunk, what to do when our freshman is sexually active… not if, but when. My son, my rule-following, high self-monitoring son came to me, in shock…”Mom… they didn’t even talk about abstinence as an option. They just assumed we’d all do it. ” He was right. Self-control, honoring the Biblical values we’ve taught him… these hold no place in a state-run university. It’s a moral free-for-all, apparently. As we drove home we talked. Eventually, our conversation turned to Joshua 24:15.
It’s such a familiar passage. It shows up on pretty plaques that hang in our homes, on bumper stickers… it’s actually etched in a piece of stone on my front porch. But what does it really mean? What is the essence of the declaration we are making when we utter those words?
A little background – The book of Joshua chronicles the story of God’s people as they finally take possession of the Promised Land. It has been a long and hard-fought journey. Sometimes their faith has been strong, at other times, they have wavered. Now, finally in the land, all of the blessings promised are being realized, but they are also surrounded by tribes of people – people who do not love, honor, obey or even know God…. people who have built their lives around worldly pleasures and pursuits. In Joshua 24, Joshua is at the end of his life. He has gathered all the tribes of Israel together and reminds them of all God has done for them. Then he asks, will you choose to obey and serve God, or will you serve the gods of your heritage(idol worship in Egypt) or the gods of the Amorites (the culture by which they were now surrounded)? In this moment, the Israelites boldly affirmed their devotion to God and committed to following Him. However, this resolve would be tested, waxing and waning throughout the rest of the Old Testament.
So what does this mean for us? While we might not ever have thought of it this way, each of us is constantly barraged by a myriad of options begging for our attention. These options, be they the pursuit of success, status, physical attractiveness, pleasure, power, the approval and acclaim of others (to name a few)… when they become the focus of our lives… have become “gods.” And the time and treasure we expend pursuing them amount to our service and our worship. We are, therefore, faced with the same choice…
What or who will we worship, who will we serve?
This daily choice happens in countless moments that might not actually seem related to serving God at all… things like what we do with our time (priorities), how we spend our money (stewardship), the way we treat others (relationships… including the way we honor our spouse and love our children). Not gonna lie…this is tough. It takes focus, tenacity, intentionality, accountability with others who share the same goal, and a lot of practice. Most of all, it is only possible with the Holy Spirit’s help. Otherwise, rebellion, not worship, will be our default response to God and selfishness will win out over service every time. For my son, it means resolving, in advance and then choosing every single day, to make choices that will honor his faith and the values he has claimed as his own, despite the pressures, opportunity and temptation to do otherwise. In closing, I want to pose the same challenge to you that Joshua posed to the Israelites, Choose you this day, whom you will serve. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.