I saw a TV commercial that really made me think twice. The ad was for the Discover Card, and the dialogue was:
"We’re a nation of consumers, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The trouble is, there’s so much cool stuff, it’s easy to get carried away. But what if more credit card companies were like the Discover Card…"
This commercial speaks to the heart of so much of what has gone wrong with our nation, and what we struggle with as Christians living in our society today.
It’s true, we ARE a nation of consumers, but the truth is there IS something wrong with it. We spend so much on things we don’t need, while many others around our nation and our world struggle to survive while we determine which of 30 breakfast cereals to get at the store, or what style of I-POD we NEED to listen to.
I have struggled with this. Our society is so fixed on needing more, wanting more, that there is no sense of contentment with what we have. Our sense of want and need has become perverted in such a way that we have lost our ability to determine the difference.
I believe the church struggles with that as well. There are so many things we think we NEED in order to be successful in reaching people, when all we really need is God, the power of the Holy Spirit, the person of Jesus. How did the New Testament church do it when they didn’t have all of the things we deem necessary to impact the world, such as buildings, programs, websites, equipment. Are these helpful? Of course they are, but when we get to the point where we need any of them more than we need the Living God, we are doomed for failure, no matter how gifted we might be.
What do we really need? We need to depend on God and God alone. I have always been impressed and humbled by the life of George Mueller. His total dependence on God to house, feed and clothe orphans in England in the 1830’s and beyond, with only letting his need be made known to God. He trusted God to provide for every need with him telling no one but God. What an amazing measure of faith and a dynamic, powerful, intense prayer life that kind of faith took. He showed that when God is all we need, He will give us all that we want. Our problem is that we say we need and want God, but don’t have the gumption, faith, perseverance to stay with God until the end, and we want to start with what we think we need and then add God to the mix. It doesn’t work that way. Scripture says "Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart" (Ps. 37:4, NKJV). He obviously knows what we need, much better than we do.
It’s not really OK that we are a nation of consumers, because it leads us to treat God as if he is something we can "consume" in a nice little daily Bible reading and prayer, and then get our free refill tomorrow. it has turned Christians into consumers of church, and we end up asking the wrong question. The question isn’t "What programs does this church offer to meet my needs?", but "How can I serve God in this place? It turns us away from being a consumer into a servant.
So, no, it’s not really OK that we are a nation of consumers, for God is not a commodity to be consumed. if anything, we are to be consumed by the totalness of all that God is. When we are, many things start to become clear.