Do you know why many people dislike American culture? Because we are consumers; we consume everything. Books, movies, music, all forms of entertainment, clothing, all the latest fashions and trends, ideas and information, products, goods and services, natural resources, and-of course-food. Recently on the Simpson’s, Homer is wearing a t-shirt with Uncle Sam eating the world and it says, “Try to stop us.” Whether we like it or not, we are a society of consumers. And, even though this is a perfect example of how we should be “in the world but not of it,” American Christians have not been immune to this trend. We are called to be counter to the culture, and yet we fall in step with the ideas of our world without so much as a struggle.
Why is this a problem? Well, besides the fact that we are not called to live materialistic lives, where things are more important than relationships, the consumerist mentality creates an imbalance of focus on the self. In a word, we are selfish. Maybe not more than the culture around us, who we wrongly compare ourselves to and come back feeling smugly self-righteous, but compared to the selflessness of Christ, we are a shame. Christ was the ultimate anti-consumer. Even though he deserved everything this world had to offer, he “took the form of a servant.” And yet we, his followers (or “little Christ’s,” as the word “Christians” means), refuse to follow his example. What’s even more disappointing is the prevalence of our selfishness in the one place it should never be seen-the church.
The church is intended to stick out like a sore thumb in the world. When outsiders look in, they should see the love and unity of Christ and be amazed. But what people often see is nothing different from what the rest of the world offers. That’s because we aren’t any different. We, the church, see ourselves as nothing more than a club or membership that brings with it special privileges and enjoyable benefits. Do any of these sound familiar?
- “I don’t like going to youth group anymore. The new youth pastor isn’t as good as the old one.”
- “I just can’t worship the Lord to that style of music.”
- “I don’t get much out of the service when he speaks. He’s just not a good public speaker.”
- “I’m trying to find another Bible study, because I just don’t relate very well with the people in the one I’m in now.”
You’ve probably heard other Christians say things like this. Maybe you’ve said some of these things yourself. Although it’s not a perfect indicator, if you’ve heard yourself say these things often, or these have been your reasons for not being involved or serving in your church, then you most likely have a problem. If you suspect you do, ask the Lord to show you. The truth is, none of us is immune to selfishness and it’s a natural, but sinful, tendency. But it also must be stopped. As a member of the body of Christ, you have a responsibility to Christ and to the believers around you to be the best body-part of Christ that includes dying to the consumer mentality of this world. This is not McChurch and, no, you don’t get worship on the side. Worship is something you give to God. Church is not about you-it’s about him.
So what do we do about this wrong attitude? What can you do about the fast-food faith problem? Try the following:
- Realize that nothing good comes from focusing on ourselves-even focusing on our own spiritual health. (It’s important to evaluate where we are spiritually, asking the Lord to guide us, but to focus on our own spiritual health and well-being is to take over God’s job in our lives. He said “seek God’s kingdom and righteousness first,” not “seek your own spiritual well-being first.”) (Matthew 6:33)
- Pray that God would change our hearts from our consumer mentality and ask Him to convict us of it on the spot, when it happens. (Psalm 139:23)
- Actively seek to take captive thoughts which lead us to casually criticize the church, church leadership, or fellow believers. (2 Corinthians 10:5)
- Make it a personal challenge to do something about the problems we do see-but in a humble and loving manner. If you see something good to do, do it! (James 4:17)
- Whenever we join a new Bible study, ministry team, or whatever, seek to find the places the Lord could use us-rather than look for the things we could get from the group, or ministry. (Romans 12:4-10)
- Emulate Christ, by taking the positions of lower importance, lower enjoyment, and lower blessing. By doing so with a joyful attitude, you bring glory to God and show the power of Christ to change selfishness into selflessness. (Phillipians 2:3)
As you give up more of yourself and take the form of a servant, you will come to know the richness of life in Christ. You will never find richness and joy in consuming. Consuming only leaves us feeling dissatisfied and wanting more. Life is too short and Christ’s blood too precious for you and I to be the food critics of the body of Christ.
For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.
– Galatians 5:13-15