It’s believed that the average American eat around a 1,996 pounds of food over the course of an entire year. That’s nearly one ton of food. Between the years of 2007-2014 U.S. consumers wasted 150,000 tons of food every day. An incredible amount of consumption and waste. In view of those statistics, we might ask: How much food did you donate this past year? How much of your food was given in service to others? How much of it was used in hospitality? Answering such questions might make us somewhat uncomfortable.
Without even realizing it, Christians have become a part of the “consuming culture” (i.e. the American Consumer). Our modus operandi is to take. If we go to a restaurant, we assume we should be served and served well. When we receive our paychecks our first question is “What can I buy this month?” While this consuming mentality might be innate in the average American mind, it is in conflict with the mind of Christ.
Jesus was the King of glory, but stooped down to wash the feet of his own followers (John 13:5, 13-14). His missional statement was one of service (Mark 10:45). He often extended himself beyond the point of exhaustion as he served others (Mark 1:32). Even in his hour of passion, he took the time to minister to the women who were weeping at his feet (Luke 23:28). What a wonderful King we serve: one who was constantly thinking of others, offering Himself in self-giving love. Of course, the ultimate expression of this selflessness was the cross. At Calvary we see a God who willingly gives everything to His creation in service to their salvation. All of this goes to show that Christianity beats with the heart of a servant. Christians should be listening, looking for, and loving the opportunities they are given to serve others.
Yet, if we aren’t careful, the American consumption mentality can slip into the kingdom of God. Instead of the welfare of others being our priority, we give precedence to our desires and comfort. Our primary thought isn’t, “How can I serve this person?” it is, “Why isn’t this person serving me better?” It has been said that those who do the least complain the most. I imagine if you could follow the trail of complaints in a church it would lead back to a consuming Christian.
I know of nothing more destructive to the unity of the church than pews full of consuming Christians. If consuming Christians outweigh the contributing ones, it creates an environment of bitterness, distrust, and even hate. When the contributing Christians are constantly giving, and the consuming Christians are constantly taking (and complaining in the process), it creates an unhealthy spiritual atmosphere. In order to curb against such a mentality Paul wrote in Philippians 2:3-4:
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
He also wrote in Romans 15:2-3:
“Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.”
Yet, how do we transform from a consuming to a contributing Christian?
- A Work of God. Only the self-giving love and power of Jesus Christ can transform a selfish sinner into a giving saint. It is within the new birth and regeneration we receive by the Spirit through the gospel that we are given a new heart (Tit. 3:5; 1 Pet. 1:22-23). Transformation occurs as we willingly present ourselves as sacrifices, reverencing God and giving him the totality of our lives in sacrificial service (Rom. 12:1-2).
- Discover Ways to Sacrifice for Others. The works of the church present many opportunities for service, and in order to become a contributing Christian we must take advantage of them. Whether it’s making a dish for the upcoming potluck, opening your home for the men’s/women’s Bible study, helping set up props for Vacation Bible School, or helping with Good Samaritans, there’s no excuse to not serve. Opportunities abound; pick one and contribute.
- Be Thankful. A major step in becoming a contributing Christian is being thankful for the efforts of others. You may have done it differently—but remember you didn’t do it, they did! They took time, money, and effort out of their day to serve you and the church, so make sure to show your appreciation. It not only helps you to pause and consider the great sacrifices of others, but it also helps to refresh the spirits of your brothers/sisters in Christ.
Don’t simply consume, contribute!