A friend tells his fiancé he loves her with all his heart and soul. He insists she’s the most important thing in his life and he wants to spend the rest of his life with her. Ironically, nothing in his life validates those adamant claims. He spends very little time with her on any given day. Seems there’s always something distracting him. The golf course is calling his name. His buds want him to go fishing. He needs to put in long hours at work. There’s something interesting on television. His family asks him for dinner. Turns out, he only spends an hour or two a week with her.
When she asks to spend more time with him he refuses. He explains that if things are going to work out with them she needs to accept the fact that he wants balance in life. She should not expect or demand more time than he already gives her. After all, he asserts, a couple hours a week is quite generous. He is a busy man with lofty goals and countless interests. She can’t expect him to sacrifice any of his activities just because he loves her. For her to expect that is very selfish.
Perhaps even more surprising is that when they are together he always seems distracted, as if he really doesn’t want to be there. It appears he’s simply checking a box to say he’s spending time with her – but his mind is elsewhere. He doesn’t adopt her interests as his own and avoids doing the things that make her happy. He refuses to attend the ballet, explore antique stores, or help with her garden. He says those things are boring and she shouldn’t insist he cultivate an interest in anything she likes.
Most curious of all is how little affection he shows for her in public. He declines to hold her hand as they walk, pepper her with kisses when sitting outside, or put his arm around her if anyone’s watching. What’s more, he hides his love for her whenever he’s around people who don’t like her ethnicity. He’s embarrassed to admit to strangers his deep and abiding love for her because they may think he’s nuts, or a loser for loving someone so different as she.
Sadly, he spends very little of his income on her. He insists they go Dutch when sharing a meal at a restaurant. He’s never bought her flowers. Not once. For her birthday he buys cheap costume jewelry and an item of used clothing from Goodwill. His stinginess isn’t a reflection of his poverty. He actually earns a significant income and showers himself with all kinds of man toys. He owns two cars, a motorcycle, snowmobile, and the latest electronic devices.
Rather, he believes she should be happy he gives her anything at all. He insists that true love does not require generosity. He notes that it’s his money and she should not expect to enjoy the fruits of his labor simply because they are madly in love. He tracks what he spends on her and says it is a very lavish five percent of his income. What more could she want?
I talk to him and point out the disparity between what he says and what he does – that the immense love he claims to have for her is not corroborated by his actions. It seems to me a significant gulf exists between his professed love for her and the reality of how he treats her. In response he stares at me blankly. What I say makes no sense to him. He dismisses my observation with a wave of the hand and informs me his love for her knows no bounds, his commitment to her is unending.
He explains that what matters are his words – not his actions. He need not prove his love by spending precious time with her, showing affection in public, showering her with gifts, or proudly proclaiming his love for her to others. His love is genuine, he declares, because he says it is – and any evidence to the contrary is irrelevant. He takes great umbrage at my suggesting otherwise. Who am I, he demands, to pretend to know the depths of his heart and the authenticity of his love for her. I clarify that I’m not suggesting I know his heart, only that his actions paint a very different picture than his words.
I wonder how many of us treat our relationship with God the same way my friend does with his fiancé. We claim to love Him with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength but do our actions validate that declaration? Do we, like my friend, insist it is enough to say we love God and then live as if we barely know Him? Do we contend that investing a couple hours a week is sufficient for building a healthy relationship with the one we call Lord? Do other things in the world easily distract us from Him? Do we inform God that He ought to be satisfied with whatever He gets from us and He ought not expect anything sacrificial? Like my friend, do we believe that true love does not transform our lives?
If we’re honest with ourselves, I suspect many of us have adopted an approach to our relationship with God that mirrors my friend’s approach with his fiancé. We want God to ignore our actions and the facts, and simply believe what we tell Him. If He prompts us to consider any inconsistency between the two we express offense and tell Him it’s not His place to demand more of us. But it is His place and the Bible informs us God wants our love evidenced in action not simply words.
The Pharisees wanted to love God with words alone and Jesus severely rebuked them saying, “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me, and in vain they worship Me” (Matthew 15:8-9a, NKJV). The ancient Israelites suffered the same problem. Through Ezekiel God told them that they, “pretend to be sincere…but have no intention of doing what [God wants]. Their mouths are full of lustful words, and their hearts seek only after money. They hear what [God says], but they don’t act on it!” (Ezekiel 33:31-32, NLT).
In both instances God explains there are consequences for loving Him in word but not in deed. Those who claim to love God but whose lives lack corroborating evidence are as bad as those who reject Him outright. He makes no distinction between the two.
Take time this week to examine your life. Does it validate your claimed love for the Lord? If not, ask Him to reveal what steps you should take to cultivate a deeper, more intimate and genuine love for Him that is consistent with your declaration. You’ll find that such love not only transforms your life but also produces unimaginable joy.