We live in a consumer driven world. We are rarely satisfied with what we have, what we get to do, or even who we are. The solution to this dissatisfaction seems easy. It’s what the advertisers, the companies we work for, and even our friends and family tell us: buy more, seek more and different entertainment or experiences, achieve more, be more.
So we consume. We consume goods, services, activities, and even people. We have pride in what we own or do. We share all our experiences on social media. We may even associate with those who can benefit us by helping us gain stuff or status or those who make us feel better about ourselves. We may spend time with those who think and act like us so we feel validated or so our thoughts, decisions, and behavior are justified. Additionally, we may spend time with those we feel slightly better than or who we can count on to make us look good in comparison. Much of our way of life is based on some type of consuming.
All too often, even our faith becomes consumer based.
Consumer theology says it’s all about my personal relationship with God. The focus can quickly become more about us and less about Him.
Sadly, this theology is being bought and taught in too many churches.
Behind the clichés and platitudes, it’s about what I get out of it. That can be anything from a sense of security and control to enjoying the benefits or being labeled a “Christian” making us a part of a group or community. It can manifest into us focusing on rules to follow and, therefore, who is included and who is excluded from our “club”.
We change churches when we “aren’t getting anything out of” the sermon, or the worship, or the programs, or the… In other words, when it isn’t making us feel good or like we’re important or the preacher says something that convicts us.
We use our Christianity to feel safe. We use it to guarantee our “ticket” to
Heaven. We use a prosperity gospel to justify our consumption and then brag about our blessings.
Consumer theology allows us to comfortably nod along with the things Jesus said without ever actually doing them. We’d rather focus on the rules and what not to do so we can check off our compliance and call ourselves good while, at the same time, creating loopholes, convenient translations, or cultural exceptions to what Jesus said to do.
This is a flawed and perilous theology when held up to the teachings of Jesus.
Love your neighbor. (Matthew 5:43-Matthew 19:19-Matthew 22:39-Mark 12:31-Mark 12:33-Luke 10:27)
Love your enemies. (Matthew 5:44-Luke 6:27-Luke 6:35)
Do to others as you would have them do to you. (Matthew 7:12-Luke 6:31)
Give to the poor. (Matthew 19:21-Mark 10:21-Luke 12:33-Luke 18:22)
These directives are clear yet we do not to do them.
How, then, do we actually follow Jesus?
In Biblical times followers (disciples) desired to follow their teacher (rabbi) so closely that the dust from his feet would be on their robes. They listened and watched, they questioned and discussed, so they learn as much as possible in order to become like the teacher.
To follow Jesus that closely we must focus in on what He said and what He did. We need to study the four gospel accounts of His life. A good place to start would be with the Sermon on the Mount. Read it in more than one translation. Study it and pray for insight. Listen to sermons or podcasts about it. Then start doing it.
Take a deep breath and be brutally honest about where you fall on the line between Jesus follower and Jesus consumer.
For myself, I think I fall a little left of center. While my intent is to always be a follower, sometimes that is difficult. It is almost always counter-cultural. It is often uncomfortable. It is sometimes even dangerous.
It won’t come naturally.
If there is no tension involved in your theology, if there is no challenge in living out your faith, then consider that you may be more near to God in your head than in you are in your heart.
Lean in to the tension and follow Him. It is the only thing that will truly satisfy.