American Values

Don’t be afraid, little flock, because your Father delights to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Make money-bags for yourselves that won’t grow old, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Be ready for service and have your lamps lit. You must be like people waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet so that when he comes and knocks, they can open the door for him at once. Those slaves the master will find alert when he comes will be blessed. I assure you: He will get ready, have them recline at the table, then come and serve them. If he comes in the middle of the night, or even near dawn, and finds them alert, those slaves are blessed. But know this: if the homeowner had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also be ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect.
(Luke 12:32-40 HCSB)

In case you are totally out of the loop regarding the video gaming world, two new console systems are set to be released this weekend. The first, Playstation 3, came out today; and on the nineteenth of this month, the new Nintendo Wii hits the American market. I’m not too keen on videogames, and, in fact, I tend to purposefully ignore the latest video game news. So how, do you suppose, I came to this knowledge?

The other night, my wife and I were at Wal-Mart doing some grocery shopping. We were buying typical American foods like soy egg nog, tofu, cactus leaves, Steven Segal’s energy drink, etc. All the essentials. As we were leaving, I noticed a group of people all between the ages of 16 and 21 sitting in chairs in the little arcade area. And these “kids” were being interviewed by the news. It struck me as odd, but I didn’t think too terribly much about it. After all, it was Wal-Mart and it was almost 11:30pm. And you don’t ask questions after 10:00.

On the drive home, I noticed a set of 5 or 6 tents sitting out in the Target parking lot. This wouldn’t have seemed odd to me had the temperature not been in the upper 30’s with rain pretty much pouring down. I asked my wife if she knew anything about what was going on, and she said she thought she saw some advertisement about something being on sale on a certain date, but she couldn’t remember what it was.

Upon investigation in today’s paper, I found out what was causing such a stir. It was those video game systems, and, in particular, the Playstation 3. A Wal-Mart in the next city over had 4 to be given out, and the first four people to get there received a system and the rest had to get rain-checks. The Wal-Mart we were at had ten, and all ten of those people were there, and then some. I am not sure how many Target had, but I am sure that quota was met by the few people camping on the sidewalk.

This probably would have been nothing more than a big joke to me had, just prior to going out for the evening, my wife and I not watched a video on Daryl Hannah’s videoblog about an organic farm being acquired by the government of L.A. to flatten it and build a warehouse this past May. They had to raise so much money to contest the decision, and they raised, I think, 3 times what they needed. They also protested and held candlelight vigils.

This farm provided food for 350 families, was used as a park for the children to play in, and was aesthetically pleasing in the community. The government mowed it down (they didn’t wait for the crops to be harvested) and built the warehouse. All of this got me to thinking about what America truly values versus what we view as unimportant.

It’s not important that we try to stop global warming, but it is important that we dig holes in wildlife reservations to find more oil.

It’s not important that, in Sudan, people are being systematically killed because they are not the right kind of African, but it is important that we stop bad things from happening in a country that supplies us with oil.

It’s not important that we conserve farmland, but it is important that we have a new strip mall.

It’s a joke to us to sit in a tree to keep someone from cutting it down, but it is perfectly normal to wait outside in the freezing cold for days waiting for a $600 piece of plastic.

It’s not important that we give of ourselves and our resources to the body of Christ, but it is important that we have a 58-inch plasma TV.

It’s not important to buy dinner for a homeless man on the street, but it is important that we share the gospel with our co-workers.

I could go on and on, but you get my point. I think that we here in America have a warped view of what is and isn’t valuable. And Christians are obviously not immune from this view of the world.

I read in the most recent issue of Relevant magazine that if Christians had given the traditional 10% rather than the 2.5% that they actually gave, that there would be almost $200 billion more than what was given. And if the church gave only around $80 billion of that $200 billion to missions and humanitarian causes that every single physical need in the world could be met.

But Jesus calls us to something more. He calls us beyond 2.5% or even 10%. He calls us to abandon this life entirely. We must give up our earthly kingdom to receive the heavenly kingdom.

Sadly, the American church is missing this point entirely. We are quick to explain away Jesus’ teachings regarding anything not spiritual by saying that, “The problem with acting like Jesus is that we aren’t Jesus.”

We can’t turn the other cheek because we will get walked all over. We can’t give money to the poor man because he might buy booze. We can’t love our enemies because…well…we just can’t. We can’t peacefully resolve conflict because it is our duty as Americans to flex our political and military arms and show that we are still a superpower.

This is not what Jesus demands of His people. I know that America is not a Christian nation, but Christians are supposed to be. When we pray “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” what are we asking for? This is not a call for God to come back soon. This is a call for God to rule all things here as He rules all things in heaven. Well, His rule has come with Jesus. His rule is here. Jesus once said,

But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. (Matthew 12:28 ESV)

Well, we know that it was indeed by the Spirit of God that He cast out demons, so what does that say about God’s kingdom?

Faith without works is dead. And a tree is known by its fruit. Your allegiance lies where your treasure is. Where does your allegiance lie? I know where mine does, and I can say, along with Derek Webb,

My first allegiance is not to a flag, a country, or land
My first allegiance is not to democracy or blood
It’s to a King and a Kingdom

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