Gimme! Gimme!

James Tonkowich | ReligionToday.com Columnist | Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Gimme! Gimme!

According to "America's Finest News Source," Pew Research just released a study that found:

"...Americans indicated that when it comes to what they expect from their country, all they really want is to be safe, happy, rich, comfortable, and entertained at absolutely all times. In addition, the U.S. populace reportedly wondered whether it was too much to ask that they always be healthy, fulfilled, successful, safe, loved, relaxed, inspired, motivated, worry-free and content every second of their lives from birth until death, 'given that this is America, after all.'"

The feeling is that “We’re talking about our inalienable rights as Americans here.” And of course we want “our inalienable rights” with “low taxes or no taxes” and “free WiFi.”

"America's Finest News Source" is the satirical Onion and so there is no such Pew study. Having said that, however, wouldn’t it be fascinating if Pew did this survey and compare the results to the made up results in the Onion article? I wonder how different they would be.

After all, a real, actual Pew survey found that 55 percent of Americans have received benefits from one of the six biggest entitlement programs: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, welfare and unemployment benefits. If we add veterans’ benefits and federal college loans, the percentage of individuals receiving benefits jumps to 70 percent, which translates to 86 percent of households.

So it’s no surprise that another real, actual Pew survey discovered that if it’s a question of preserving entitlement benefits or reducing the budget deficit, preserving benefits wins 56 percent to 32 percent with 8 percent wanting both.

And it’s also no surprise that Washington can’t (or won’t) address entitlement spending or the budget deficit in meaningful ways. How can 56 percent of the American public possibly be wrong? And even if they are wrong, they’re still voters.

The Bible is shot through with the sin of entitlement. That’s right, I said “sin.” It’s that human insistence that I should have what I want when I want it at no cost to me — and I want it NOW.

Adam and Eve lived in a paradise of plenty. It was all there for them to enjoy — except for that one fruit God had declared off limits. After her conversation with the serpent Eve decided that she was entitled and so she and Adam ate and the trouble started.

God promised Abraham an heir through his wife, Sarah. But it was taking a long time and since he was entitled to an heir, he sired a son by Hagar. And the children of Ishmael and the children of Isaac are still in conflict today.

David felt entitled to hop in the sack with Bathsheba. After all, he was the king and rank has its privileges. Solomon felt entitled to hop in the sack with more girlfriends that the Beatles and Elvis and in the process created a government program to fund the worship of their false gods.

King Herod felt entitled to unchallenged kingship so he slaughtered the Holy Innocents in Bethlehem. James and John felt entitled to sit at Jesus’ right and left hand. Simon Magus felt entitled to have the power of the Holy Spirit. After all, he was rich. And in the Revelation, the Whore of Babylon says, “A queen I sit, I am no widow, mourning I shall never see” (Revelation 18:7b). Whatever I have, I’m entitled to.

And we all want churches that are incredibly friendly without being intrusive, filled with people like us yet diverse, traditional but contemporary featuring world-class preaching, relevant programs, Spirit-filled worship, relentless joy, and big parking lots every Sunday for exactly one hour.

We’re like the cartoon of a man at the church coffee table. “No cappuccino!?” he exclaims “What kind of a church is this?” After all, we’re entitled.

By contrast, Jesus “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped at, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:6-7a). And a servant or slave (dulos in Greek) is entitled to precisely nothing.

It’s foolish to expect those who don’t know Christ to imitate Christ. Entitlements are free stuff and we all like free stuff (leaving aside what it does to our human dignity).

But in an era of soaring deficits and astronomical debt, someone has to say “Stop!” That someone has to be the Church. If people who know Christ and thus can be expected to imitate him won’t do it, no one will and the unsustainable results will ruin us all.

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