Consumer, Citizen or Disciple?

People in America nowadays are often referred to as “consumers”. That sort of bothers me. When I read in history books about how folks in times past thought, it doesn’t seem like they viewed humanity as consumers. Certainly I didn’t get that feeling from my grandparents and their families.

If you go a little back in history, people more often thought of themselves as “citizens”. This was a popular term in the times of the French Revolution and the first generations of the United States. People more and more realized their individuality and the need to participate in their society as citizens. Still in our times people talk about being citizens.

Certainly my parents’ generation was strong on the idea of our democracy and the equality and rights of the citizens of this country. It seems like it’s only been in the last 30 years maybe that the concept of seeing ourselves as “consumers” has come to compete with our sense of being a citizen.

But there was a time when neither of these concepts was supreme. In times past the vision of being a disciple was what was esteemed to be the highest identity we should espouse to. Let’s face it, even the word “disciple” itself is pretty out of vogue nowadays. Sounds kind of weird, doesn’t it? “Disciple.” Really old fashion and rather suspect.

hogsBut how about that? What should be our priorities? How do you feel about being considered a “consumer”?  lt makes me think of hogs jostling around a trough. Sickening thought? Yes. But isn’t that how a lot of modern living in the consumer society is becoming?

carnaval barker flat“Your responsibility is to consume things in order to help boost the economy. You’ll find satisfaction and fulfillment in your next acquisition, your next huge meal at the restaurant, purchase of a new gadget or whatever material fulfillment has captured your heart!”

That’s the bottom line that is pandered incessantly in our times. And unless you make a conscious effort to turn away from that vision, it will claim your heart and that’s what you’ll be: a consumer. You might say, “What else is there?” Well, for centuries one thing came first for a large part of this world: discipleship. The concept of being followers, disciples of God, and specifically of Jesus Christ.

George WashingtonNow your reaction may be, “Oh but they were all hypocrites! There were all those wars!” You can sure get that impression if you read many books on the subject, written in our times. But if you read others, especially older ones or histories written in those times, you may be struck by the devotion and single-mindedness that comes across as being so prevalent then.

praying peopleHypocrites? There always have been those. Wars? When and where have there not been wars? But again and again from reading history (or even the contact I remember with my aged relatives from when I was little) it’s how their faith in God, their desire to seek the ways of God and to keep their heart right with Him, in a good spirit, this was the paramount ideal to so many then.

And it often impresses me when I compare it to how we are taught to be today. If we all do our best to be good consumers, is that going to make a better world for everyone? Or if our goal is only to be a good citizen, how’s that going to help when we meet people of another culture, country or faith?

There was a time in my life when I really was a consumer. Also I thought the end goal was to be a good citizen and make a better society. But both of those things, through no effort on my part, came to where they were “weighed in the balances and found wanting” my eyes. (Daniel 5:27) But discipleship, to be a follower of God and Jesus of Nazareth has been my quest and the beacon before me for over 40 years now. And I’m so glad for that.

Consumerism, nationalism and citizenship are all systems of thought that inherently are weak and fail because they fail to acknowledge the essential truth of our existence. We’re not merely physical or social beings, we are spirits and souls who are made to love and live in the light of the God of Abraham and His Son. Anything short of that is doomed to failure.

run to GodBut truly loving and following God is destined to find a happy ending. If you’re unfulfilled by materialism or disappointed with politics, I suggest you establish a relationship with the one true God. There’s real fulfillment in that.

“The sky is falling!”

Believe it or not, I heard once that the phrase, “May you live in interesting times”  is actually a Chinese curse! But it does seem we live in interesting times. Of course some people are like what Jesus said about folks in the time of Noah, “they knew not till the flood came and carried them all away.”  (Matthew 24:39) Some just never pay much attention to “the signs of the times” (Matthew 16:3).

On the other hand, there are a lot of people everywhere now who are really concerned that something serious is about to happen. Some thought that 2012 was extremely propitious and that omens abounded for sudden cataclysmic change. Others look at the economic situation in Europe and fear a further slide into times unseen since the 1930’s. And they know what those times brought on. Some closely watch events in the Middle East and see a potential horrific war resulting from a military attack by Israeli against Iran. And if you are an American, you may see dire consequences if the presidential candidate you opposed in the election won the presidency. All in all, there are quite a lot of folks who are seriously concerned about the current crises that are bubbling and boiling around the world.

But not everyone. Perhaps equally if not more are the people who don’t notice or just aren’t disturbed by the current crises. Many are completely preoccupied with their own personal difficulties of finding a job, paying their bills and taking care of their families. And the rest see “the distress of nations, men’s hearts failing them for fear” (Luke 21: 25 & 26) but don’t feel things will get out of hand. Like the saying goes in Australia, “It’ll come round, mate.” Which translates to, “Everything will be ok” or “Don’t worry, be happy.”

But if you’re a Christian and look for times that foreshadow the ones leading up to the Lord’s return, then all this does take on a larger dimension. Are we seeing events that will lead into the final days that Jesus and Jewish prophets foretold? And here is where things get even more divided.

Many are adamant that “this is it”. Conspiracy theories abound. On the other hand, those who don’t believe any of that are equally resolute. They assert that talk of the collapse of society and the economy, a looming one world government and such assorted fears are just coming from absolutely nuts, crazy kooks and often deluded religious extremists.

Who’s right? Is something about to happen? Should we be prepared? Is there even any way to prepare? Which side are you on? Which side am I on?

Here’s what I think: be prepared either way. Honestly, I’ve felt something dire was possibly very near. But I’ve felt that for over 40 years. You may not agree but I believe the world is pretty much held together by belief or confidence. And confidence is fragile, for individuals, societies or the world at large. In my life I came to where God in heaven just pulled the plug on it because I was so far out of His will. And also He had a better plan for me. So He in essence said, “Time’s up.”  In the Bible God is quoted as saying, “My Spirit will not always strive with man, for he that being often warned and hardens his heart shall suddenly be destroyed.”  (Genesis 6:3, Proverbs 29:1) And on the other hand, God is more patient and merciful than any of us can imagine. But it can come to a time, a tipping point when the goose is cooked, the genie is out of the bottle and you can’t go back to Kansas, to mix several metaphors there.

Will that happen? When? Will we just have another 50 years of muddling through? Or are we really nearing a precipice, descending into worldwide chaos, leading to the final events foretold in the Bible?

I’ve tried to be prepared either way. I want to live for the world to come. That means not placing my trust in “uncertain riches” (I Timothy 6:17) or “laying up treasures on earth” (Matthew 6:19). It means that I put my relationship with the Lord first and I’m prepared, as much as is possible, for any sudden events, local or national. My “weapons” and defense aren’t based on physical things, guns or militias. My preparedness is in and of the Spirit of God. My dependence is on His protection and provision. If I’m doing that, then come what breakdown or disruption may be, I’ve put my trust in the “System” that’s never going to break down, the “government” that’s never going to fail me, and the one that’s ultimately going to survive and run this world the way it should be run. Either way, approaching chaos or another 50 years of surviving the storms of this world, my choice is to settle my life on the Rock of God and His will and blessings. What do you think? I hope you’ll do the same.