I must admit that I have not been watching very much television lately. But some of the most watched major attractions on the small screen seem to be the “reality” shows – like “Survivor”, “Amazing Race”, and “Big Brother”, not to mention the shows such as “American Idol”, “America’s Got Talent”, and “The Voice.”
It may be a stretch – in fact, it is an ongoing debate – but it seems, from the nature of these popular shows, that our society seems to be consumed with programming which reflects the very essence of our culture. In interviewing quite a few of the would-be participants in these reality shows, their main objective seems to be the money first, the “celebrity” second.
The fact has been driven home that we live in a very self-centered, voyeuristic, consumer-oriented world that looks at life from a very selfish point of view.
Anyone who watches the “battles” which are broadcast to the public on these “survivor” shows could not help but realize that they were motivated by that sense of selfish greed that brought them to victory.
And we as a nation applaud their success.
Every one of us is infected and affected by this same phenomenon. I am reminded of the old story about the farmer who was single and wanted a wife. So he put an ad in the newspaper that read: “Man, 35, wants woman about 25, with tractor. Send picture of tractor.”
All of us are infected with selfishness and a self-serving spirit. Even Christians.
An increasingly large portion of the Christian community sees the blessings and provisions God has given us in Christ as designed strictly for our personal happiness, our own comfort and pleasure.
Our tendency today is to make our satisfaction and personal comfort our religion. J.I.Packer, in his book Keeping in Step with the Spirit (p. 97) puts it this way:
We show much more concern for self-fulfillment than for pleasing God. Typical of Christianity today … is its massive rash of how-to books for believers, directing us to more successful relationships, more joy in sex, becoming more of a person, realizing our possibilities, getting more excitement each day, reducing our weight, improving our diet, managing our money, licking our families into happier shape and whatnot.
For people whose primary passion is to glorify God, these are doubtless legitimate concerns, but the how-to books regularly explore them in a self-absorbed way that treats our enjoyment of life rather than the glory of God as the center of interest.
Our society, in the name of “reality TV” and whatever other means it can has in fact distorted the reality of life as God has designed it for each of us.
The Apostle Paul, in his second letter to the church at Corinth, put it this way: “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him” (2 Corinthians 5:9). Our goal should not be for our own satisfaction or glorification, but to please God, to honor Christ.
In fact, even when we suffer, the comfort we receive from God is given to us for a purpose, not for ourselves, but to enable us to comfort others with the comfort we have received from Him. (Check out 2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
And just a few chapters later, right after he tells us we should have as our aim to please God, Paul writes, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God, that “Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, therefore all died, And he died for all that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for him who died for them and was raised again.” (5:14-15)
In other words, the real essence of living for Christ is found in living for others.
Two prominent statues in the city of Paris are of men whose first names were Louis. One was Louis XIV, the absolute monarch, remembered primarily for his declaration, `I am the state.’
He represents one of the supreme achievements of greatness through secular power. His desire was that everyone serve him.
The other statue, located a few blocks away, is less pretentious. The figure carved in stone contains no badge of office and no crown. It is the statue of Louis Pasteur, a servant of humanity and of God.
His life of unselfish, devoted research will be of immeasurable benefit to all of humanity for years to come through overcoming disease and suffering.
The first statue is simply a sculpture of a man who paid homage to himself; the second represents a servant of God who continues to be honored worldwide because of unselfish service to humankind.
God honors those who, rather than seeking their own gratification or glorification, commit their lives to first of all pleasing God, then secondly, serving others.
This coming weekend, we celebrate Memorial Day, which commemorates those who took that principle to its ultimate end.
They gave their all, their very lives for you and for me! The essence of the Christ-like life is found in others-centered living!
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the Hillsboro Times-Gazette and the Wilmington News Journal. He is also the former Pastor of Faith Community Church in Hillsboro and Port William UMC.