A few weeks ago during the super bowl, a crowd of friends and family members came together to watch the big game at our house. Not long into the game, the Super Bowl was no longer what everyone was excited about. Rather, everyone was now excited about seeing some of the knew commercials during the breaks. It was about halfway through the second quarter when Sprint aired one of their new iPhone 5S “Truly Unlimited Data” plan commercials. As the commercial came to an end, you would have thought someone lit a bomb in the middle of the room. Go ahead and watch this 31 second clip.
With out hesitation, half of the room erupted saying they hated the commercial. After a moment of silence, a bold or maybe unwise family member in the room said, “Well, it is our right”. Rights are all around us. Especially here in the States. Some rights are incredibly good, like human rights. On December 10th, 1948, the Untied Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; these 30 rights written in the form of articles form the basic premise for how all of humanity should be treated. Like article number 5, No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Now lets be honest, the rights that most in the U.S. speak of have nothing to do with human rights, but rather individual entitlements.
This past week while reading Bad Religion by Ross Douthat I was struck by the refashioning of Christianity to suit an age of abundance. Douthat said it this way, “By linking the spread of the gospel to the habits and mores of entrepreneurial capitalism, and by explicitly baptizing the pursuit of worldly gain, prosperity theology has helped millions of believers reconcile their religious faith with their nation’s seemingly unbiblical wealth and un-Christian consumer culture”. No longer is American Christianity even about Jesus, salvation or even kingdom, but rather rights. Or better yet, entitlements. So how have these entitlements emerged in our form of Christianity?
The Right to be blessed… Bigger is almost always defined as better. Yet, most of us know this isn’t the case. Bigger is often, just bigger. More headaches, larger budgets, more programs, better sound systems, the need for fog machines (I had to 🙂 ). Somewhere we lost the perspective that blessing may come in the form of cancer, loss of a spouse, simplicity, loss of job and even your church becoming smaller. Ed Dobson, who was a mega church pastor in the 80’s and 90’s here in the states was diagnosed with ALS in the early 2000’s. Recently Ed has been part of a film series called Ed’s Story. In this video series Ed speaks of the desire he had all of his life to live and be like Christ. However, it wasn’t until he was diagnosed with ALS that he truly began to do what is important. Ed’s ministry went from speaking to thousands on a weekly basis, to meeting with the one. Ed recently has said, “I have never been more blessed in life”. To many of us blessing is a right, and then we define it from an egocentric self entitled personal fulfillment.
The Right to control our surroundings… We like placing our investment in a market which will give us good return on our money. Most Americans believe they have the right to make great money in their portfolios, have a nice house and three car garage, retire at a convenient age and travel whenever the desire arises. We have become masters at control management, minimizing risk and aversion to pain. Our churches have simply become the place where many facilitate their religious needs within this controlled environment. We give in the offering plate, so we have the right to have a say in the building project! We serve faithfully ever week, therefore we have the right to control how the ministry is run! Are these rights or entitlements?
We have created a religion using the name of Jesus, where we risk nothing, give up nothing, and cater to our own egocentric self-serving needs. Where the greatest possible act you could perform is to become a good citizen? Something has gone desperately wrong in our definition of blessing.
In II Corinthians 11:23-27, Paul speaks of a different way, “Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked”. I believe Paul defines blessing a little different than most Americans.
As Sprint says,
No metering, no throttling, and no overages.
I have the right to be unlimited!
What have we been asking from God?
Have we been asking for the embodiment of the gospel through suffering or our own entitlements?