cheap spiritual tat

This year, for the first time, we allowed Mister to choose how he spent his £10 birthday money. Last week we trotted off to the shop and perused the toy section, looking at the options.

I was keen for Mister to spend his money on a small box of Lego, which I felt offered good value for money. He was keen for an overpriced plastic Monsters University toy with no useful features, as far as I could see, apart from hinged arms.

“Don’t you want some more Lego? I just think you’ll play with it for longer, it’ll last forever, and you might get bored of that monster… Think of all the new things you could create with the Lego!”

But no – Mister had made his mind up – and the monster was bought. He didn’t let it out of his sight all day – but, shortly before teatime, he let out a cry and ran up to me.

“Mum – I was just jumping him up and down, and the teeth fell out.”

Sure enough, there was a hollow space where Jonny’s teeth had been, and I could see them inside the toy, impossible to get out. The toy was nothing but overpriced tat, made from cheap materials and not designed to last.

This little incident made me wonder how often I reject what my heavenly Father offers me, opting instead for cheap, spiritual tat which won’t last and definitely won’t satisfy. He offers me an intimate, satisfying relationship – and I replace it with the rhythms of organised religion, going to church on autopilot and trying to hit a target with my personal devotional times, like it’s some sort of competition. As my Rock, God offers me total security – and, instead, I opt to put my faith in material possessions. He offers me grace – yet time and time again I replace it with my own works – the cheap, spiritual tat of trying to earn God’s favour through doing good things.

Of course, I could have insisted that Mister buy the Lego. It’s a good quality toy, designed to last, with infinite creative possibilities. I imagine Mister would get several years’ use out of it. But that wasn’t the point. We gave him the choice because we love him, and want him to learn about money. How else will he learn if he’s not allowed to make mistakes, and live by them?

God never insists that we spend our lives on Him. He loves us too much for that – and He wants us to make the choice ourselves. Each time I choose a cheaper god, I am ultimately dissatisfied. For every wrong choice I make, I’m learning to make better choices in the future.

We returned the broken toy and exchanged it – not for Lego (to my disappointment) but for Lightning McQueen and Mater. They’ve lasted nearly a week so far, so here’s hoping…

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