You are what you love

Our repeated practices make us who we are

Sep 12, 2016 by

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“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” Jesus said (Matt. 6:21).

In the book You Are What You Love, James K.A. Smith argues that we humans are not merely minds with bodies attached for utilitarian purposes but that we are primarily lovers, and our love is expressed by our whole being through our habits.

This explains why churches can have beautiful statements of faith that articulate great truth, yet the people can lack a lived-out expression of that truth if their hearts aren’t in it.

Smith writes that we may not love what we think.

To determine what we love, we can ask ourselves: What do we return to again and again? Around what do we orient our schedules? What topics do we most often talk about?

Church attendance is important because the repeated practices of corporate worship, prayer, studying God’s Word and fellowship shape us.

Smith writes, “Worship is the ‘imagination station’ that incubates our loves and longings so that our cultural endeavors are indexed toward God and his kingdom.”

Declining church involvement means that more of us are being increasingly formed elsewhere — perhaps the mall, the stadium, the concert hall, the university, the field or the home?

We love what we prioritize. What we prioritize is what we worship.

Of course, it is possible to give our time to something we don’t love. But we show devotion to what we prioritize, whether we experience feelings of love or not. We might not enjoy work or exercise, but if we make these priorities, we express devotion to them. Perhaps that is one reason we refer to “spiritual disciplines” — practices we repeat even when we don’t feel like it.

Do we look forward to meeting with fellow believers who are seeking the kingdom of God? Do we try to engage in worship, prayer, Bible study or service more than once a week? If those opportunities aren’t available, do we find ourselves wanting to organize them? Are we so excited about the reign of God that it’s the main thing we talk about?

The temporary things of this world should have little hold on us, because they will not last (1 John 2:15-17). Instead we should prioritize God’s kingdom without end (Matt. 6:25-33).


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  • Evan Knappenberger

    This is a good reflection on Jamie Smith, which we are reading in Christian Ethics class at EMS this semester. I would add that Smith’s assertion that clergy should be decoders of ideology and idolatry is spot on. Thanks!
    Evan Knappenberger

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