We live in a supermarket world, with stocked shelves and endless choices. We move through the isles of the Super Wal-Marts and we carefully select items based on what moves us in the moment. Usually we end up cramming our shopping carts to the brim with stuff we usually don’t need. After we absorb all the satisfaction we can from these items, we simply throw the rest away. Usually we end up throwing out perfectly good food, products, jobs, or even people. We then just head back to the supermarket for new ones.
This is the consumerism worldview that teaches us that our desires define who we are, and our mission in life is to satisfy those desires, by any means necessary. It is not all our faults. It has been ingrained in us since birth. The consumerism mindset infects how we view ourselves, how we view others, and most importantly, how we view God.
I want to discuss this how consumerism can distort our image of God. Consumerism has distorted both our image of God and our perception of His purpose for our lives. It even has a term associated with it. It is called consumer-Christianity. The distorted image we have of God is that we can go to God for any little thing we might want and that God will immediately give it to us; just like we do when we go to the supermarket. We expect God to be the Supermarket God. Please understand what I am saying here. I am not saying that we shouldn’t go to God with both little and big things that we need in life, but we have to understand that sometimes God makes us wait before He grants our requests. The problem is that we don’t want to wait. We want it now just like we want everything else we can get so easily in the supermarket. If God makes us wait for something, it is for a reason. Maybe we are not ready to receive it. Maybe our heart needs to be transformed before we can be ready to receive His gift and use it properly. Maybe if He gave it to us right away we might end up hurting someone else or even ourselves.
Some people only want to talk to God when they need something from Him. They don’t want to talk to Him each day and just talk. They don’t want to take the time to praise God for the blessing He has given them. They don’t want to ask God what He wants them to do. They just stick God in a little box and just visit Him when they need something from Him. This is just like we only visit the supermarket when they need to get something. How often do you go to a supermarket when you have absolutely nothing you need to get? Do you see how our society influences how we approach God? I have a revolutionary idea that I want to share with you:
We shouldn’t be taking, we should be giving.
Instead of focusing our efforts on what we can get from God or what we can get from others, we should instead be asking what can I give back to this wonderful God who loves me so much? So what do you give to a God who already has everything? The best way to give back to God is to show love and give to all of His other children. That means we need to be nice to and find ways to give to all those around us. This means family and friends, of course. But it also means strangers you meet on the streets and even enemies who show nothing but meanness and contempt toward you. If you can find it in your heart to be kind and give to your enemies, that really fills God’s heart with joy.
Now I want to take this even a step further. Jesus told the disciples that we were to love God, love others, and spread the Good News about Jesus throughout all the world. Evangelism is the word we use to describe spreading the gospel to others. There are many people who see evangelism as the best and most important solution to consumerism. Our society trains us to believe that our value and significance as people comes from our ability to impact change in our world. As a Christian, spreading the gospel fits in nicely to that mindset because it allows Christians to be activists for Christ. There is one problem with placing our primary focus on spreading the gospel. This vision is a vision of Jesus’ mission for us and not of God’s love. God’s true message, through the gospel, for us is of love and presence, not obedience. Jesus’ mission for us, spreading the gospel to all the ends of the earth, is very important and we should do that, but it is not the most important thing. We need to make loving others and spending time with them and developing relationships with them our primary focus, not the mission of spreading the gospel.
Place your focus on loving others and giving to others. Through doing this, you will develop relationships with people. As your relationships grow and develop, there will be times when talking about Jesus and the gospel will naturally come up. That is when you spread the gospel. You need to do it in a way that is natural and not forced upon people. If you try to talk to some people about Jesus before a relationship has developed, you can actually push them away from Jesus. The absolute best way to spread the gospel is not through telling others about it with words. The best way is to live a life that makes other people notice that you are somehow “different.” If people approach you and want to know why you seem so different, that is when you can plant seeds by telling them about how Jesus has changed your life. You can tell someone lots of things, but if they can see it making an impact in your life, it will have a lot more meaning and power to the person.
Saving people is not your job anyway. Only God can do that. All you can do is plant seeds with people by how you live your life and by showing others love and giving to them through your time and money. It is then up to God to water those seeds so they can grow to be fruitful. If we focus on the living right, loving and giving part, the mission of spreading the gospel will take care of itself. This is how it was all designed to flow. If we try to focus on the mission of spreading the gospel first before the others, we are trying to reverse the natural flow that God intended and the results will be pretty depressing. While the mission is important, it can’t be the primary focus. I care about the gospel too much to care about the mission of the gospel too much.
I think the Beatles really might have been onto something when they wrote, “All You Need is Love.”