A tragic Greek myth relays the tale of a skilled craftsman who invented wings made of wax and feathers in order to escape captivity with his son. As father and son flew to their freedom, Icarus paid no heed to his father’s instructions to abstain from flying too close to sun and this caused the wings to melt, resulting in a fatal fall into the sea.
It is obvious that Icarus was a foolish child who used his father’s gifts to take him places he was never intended to go, and this caused his downfall.
Maybe not quite so blatant is that quite often we are foolish children who use our Father’s gifts and take them places they were never intended to go and this causes our downfall.
God and has brought us from captivity into freedom, (Isaiah 61:1)and is the Giver of good things (Matt. 7:11), but our sinfulness has shattered our appreciation for those gifts. Whether the gifts be material or immaterial, we have a way of thinking we deserve what God gives us and proceed to use those same things for our own exaltation or worship. We revel in hubris– excessive pride and arrogance.
We take gifts that are meant to be means to glorify God and we see them as an end in themselves, inverting their importance and purpose. We praise the gifts rather than the Giver because we adore the way they can make us seem better in our own eyes– if God has given us a box we would probably stand on it to make ourselves feel taller. Romans 1 explains this as unrighteousness: God has revealed Himself in many ways (vs. 20), people reject God in ungratefulness, (vs. 21) they exalt themselves falsely (vs.22), and choose to worship the creation rather than the Creator (vs. 23), and this causes their downfall (vs. 18).
Our pride and idolatry is rampant. God has given us the ability to reason, and we attempt to reason Him away, God has given us the gift of language and we use it to gossip and slander, God has given us money and we covet and splurge on unnecessary items, God has given us an appreciation for beauty and we tumble into lust or envy, God has given us responsibility and we revel in power or pride. God has given us emotions and we let them dictate the way we live. God has given us food and we become gluttonous, God has given us possessions and we become materialistic. We as depraved humans are able to take any of the good gifts God has given us and distort them, even as those who claim to be worshipers of Christ.
An oft-quoted verse warns that, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18), and Proverbs 18:12 reaffirms this, saying, “Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty.” Let us be warned that when we take selfish ownership over God’s gifts, the pride that exalts us will ultimately bring us low, and we must not see this as unjust but recognize it as God’s grace. Consider it a blessing that unlike Icarus’s father who was unable to prevent his fall, our Father is a Savior who is in control of even the fall and teaches us to know that idolatry end in sorrow and that there is true joy in true worship (Ps. 16:4& 9-11). In God’s desire to see His own glory and our holiness, He may discipline us and let us reap the consequences of our idolatry, pride, and selfishness (Gal. 6:8), even though it may be painful (Heb. 12:11).
There is much hope in this though, for as Augustine observed, we have restless hearts until they are embedded in Christ. Things that were never intended to satisfy us will always leave us restless for something deeper. The more often we worship God’s gifts rather than God Himself, the more we instill a void of discontentment in ourselves. Perhaps if you are in a place of discontentment, it would be wise to observe the way you handle the gifts you have received, for true contentment comes from resting our hearts in Christ and knowing that if all else on earth fails, He promises to be with us always (Matt. 28:20, Deut. 31:6).
To guard against a misuse of God’s gifts, we must “set the Lord always before [us]” (Ps. 16:8), behold the loveliness of His face, and see the gifts He has given us as grace upon grace, for we have already received far more than we deserve through the gift of salvation. With eyes set firmly on the Savior, you will not be distracted by the gleam of the sun or be carried away in improper handling of God’s gifts. Recognize that all “good and perfect “ gifts (Jas 1:17) are from God and are for His glory and receive them in humble thankfulness, lest you, like Icarus, are using your Father’s gifts in an unsuitable manner and exalt yourself to your own destruction. -M.