Drew’s year-old shoes were beginning to tear, so I decided it was time to buy a new pair. While looking through our options at Shoe Carnival, we had it narrowed down to two kinds. The first pair won Drew over. They were shiny black with single lights on the tip, which could be used as flashlights. The lights also could change colors, and there were even compasses on top.
The other pair was my favorite. They were more attractive and looked much more comfortable. As Drew looked at those and found the lights on them, he commented, “All they do is light up.”
All they do is light up?
I wasn’t surprised by this reaction, as compared to the others I could see what he saw. But seriously, all they do is light up?
My mind flashed back to the organization I had seen earlier that day – Sole Hope – who makes closed toed shoes for children in Africa because wearing open toe shoes – or none at all – puts them at risk for a painful parasite that leads to infection. What would those children think of Drew’s statement?
I began thinking about how Drew’s reaction is painfully representative of our First World culture. I’m sure we can think of lots of examples of how spoiled we’ve gotten. If you can’t, go ask your grandmother. Or just remember your childhood, when light-up shoes perhaps didn’t even exist. Consider these 18 Things that are Hard to Explain to Third World Friends. The fact that we’ve become such a sickening consumer-driven culture shouldn’t shock us.
And I’m just as guilty as anyone.
But I think an even more painful reality is how our consumer-driven culture has infested our attitudes and responses surrounding our participation in the local church.
It informs what we look for when we “shop” for a church. No longer do we look for where we can best serve Christ; we look for what the church offers me.
It influences our satisfaction or dissatisfaction in our local church. Our preferences become paramount to how we utilize our gifts in building up the body.
It’s hard, hard, hard, to identify those consumerist, me-first preferences when the society around us pushes us to always be thinking of ourselves.
We’re selfish sinners, after all, and it’s not that hard for us to get into that territory of our minds without even realizing it.
The key, I’m learning, is the heart. When a longing for something more begins lurking in my heart, is my motivation pure? Is it a longing to serve Christ greater, or is it a desire to have my needs met? Are my preferences merely what I want, or are they truly seeking to serve someone else?
When I’m dissatisfied, am I angry at what Jesus would be angry about? Or is it again, about my personal preference on how this or that should look or be done? We know from how Jesus walked, his priority was on reaching the lost, with no thought of personal cost to Himself. As he prepared to die, leaving the gospel in the hands of men empowered by the Holy Spirit, most of his last prayer in John 17 centered around unity.
Am I angry if we’re not reaching the lost? Am I angry at disunity creeping in the body? Or am I apathetic about the former and contributing to the latter?
And there’s always personal responsibility that is overlooked at times. We’ve delegated our spiritual growth to the “professionals” without realizing Jesus came and did away with the priestly system so we could have direct access to God (Ephesians 2:18).
Teaching my children in the Word is MY job as their parent. Learning Scripture and listening to the Word being proclaimed is MY job. Worshipping God is not dependent on style of music; it’s MY job to bring my sacrifice of praise.
Do my thoughts, attitudes, words and actions portray the selfless dying to myself – and my personal preferences – that Jesus modeled?
Trust me, I’m preaching to myself here. Self is all too painfully present in my thoughts and actions. My exercise of late, when assaulted with thoughts of dissatisfaction, ungratefulness, and a longing for more or different, has been to ask, “Is this attitude birthed from preference or passion for what Jesus was passionate about?”
Drew bought the fancy shoes with all the gadgets. He wore them around the house that evening, enjoying all the features in the dark. Then later, after I thought he was asleep, I heard him in his room, upset.
I walked in to see him sitting in his bed with the new shoes in his hands.
“The compasses aren’t real!” he cried. I took the shoes in my hands and jimmied the shoes around to show him they worked, albeit imperfectly. Clearly, that wasn’t his main issue. He then explained, visibly upset, “These are not going to be comfortable. They are so heavy. I shouldn’t have bought them!”
He had no idea that there’s such thing as a return policy, and I saw he had learned his lesson. What had all the fancy gadgets ended up being the biggest burden. Thankfully, he realized his error before he wore them to school so we were able to exchange them.
It’s hard when we’re always seeming to chase those fancy gadgets, assuming they’ll fulfill us and make us happy. What it does instead is continue to build our expectations so we want more and better as time goes on. Just the basics of doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God (Micah 6:8) doesn’t satisfy anymore.
What a lie.
Jesus came to serve, not to be served.
Ever since that night, I’ve been working to shine a light on my own motivations, my own thoughts, my own dissatisfactions and think to myself, is this an All they do is light up moment?
This morning, as I was getting ready for church, I prepared myself to worship and remembered going to church isn’t about me and what I can get out of it. It’s about God and offering my worship to Him. And you know what I discovered? A big blessing I didn’t expect. I saw genuine love in those believers. I listened to testimonies of God’s faithfulness, beautiful times of prayer and song, and a challenging message.
My heart went to worship, trying to lay aside myself. And I left bearing more blessings than I ever could have anticipated.