The Weight of What We Love

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By Jim Tune

We carry a lot of extra weight with us. No, I’m not talking about the extra pounds around our middle. I’m thinking of our loves.

Augustine once described wealth as a weight. “My weight is my love,” he wrote. “Wherever I am carried, my love is carrying me.” This makes sense. We all want money, but we recognize that those who love money must worry about how to accumulate, protect, and manage it.

James K. A. Smith helps us understand what Augustine meant.

“Our orienting loves are like a kind of gravity—carrying us in the direction to which they are weighted,” Smith says. “If our loves are absorbed with material things, then our love is a weight that drags us downward to inferior things. But when our loves are animated by the renewing fire of the Spirit, then our weight tends upward. . . . Discipleship should set us on fire, should change the ‘weight’ of our love.”

Suddenly I’m beginning to see an old concept in a new way.

Christians have often talked about bringing burdens to God. An old song says, “Burdens are lifted at Calvary.” I’ve often thought of these burdens as sins and worries that we can’t carry. A burden, after all, is a weight we’re carrying that we find tiring, and we want gone.

According to Augustine, burdens aren’t just sins and worries we can’t carry. They actually can be good things we have come to love. When we love something like our bank balances, careers, or possessions, then it becomes a burden we carry around with us. It pulls us down. When we love God most, however, we’re set free from carrying these burdens, and we’re able to walk around lighter than before.

Trevin Wax gives an extreme example of this in his book This Is Our Time.

Wax’s sister and brother-in-law built a beautiful house on a hill. One Monday morning, a gas leak led to a small explosion. They fled the house with their three sons and called 911. They watched for four hours as their house burned down. It was a complete loss.

They grieved but eventually were relieved no one had been hurt. They came to realize they had made great progress financially through the years, but remained stagnant or had taken steps back spiritually. They always said God was most important in their lives, but now they had a chance to test that.

Reflecting on their story, Wax asked, “Would I be okay without all this?”

His sister and brother-in-law told him that’s the wrong question. “The question you should ask is not, ‘Would I be okay without this stuff?’ but, ‘Do I think I’ll be happier with this stuff?’”

The Bible isn’t against nice things and money. But it certainly cautions us against a love of money. When you love something, you’re weighed down by it. God wants to change the weight of our love so that we’re set free from carrying unnecessary burdens.

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