ENTITLEMENT, ENTERTAINMENT AND ENJOYMENT
J. N. Manokaran
It was early morning, the day of the American presidential election (6 November 2012), when I was travelling in a taxi from Colorado Springs to Denver. Though I was sleepy, I struck a conversation with my forty-year old driver. He spoke ardently about his life, profession, family, economy and the elections. When I asked him about his religious beliefs, he said he was a 'cynic' and began his tirade against Christianity, how the churches were 'irrelevant', how the super-rich pastors lived out of hard-earned money of people like him, etc. He also claimed to be 'spiritual' and equated spirituality with belief in God.
As the father of a 14-year old girl and a 7-year old boy, he was genuinely concerned about the younger generation being vocal about their 'rights' without the inclination to work hard and earn, glued to the TV for hours on end, with little or no time for the family. He sighed about the youngsters' craze for week-end revelries and loose moral values, indulging in pre-marital and extra-marital sex.
After patiently listening to him, I shared with him about my spiritual journey of following the Lord Jesus Christ. When I recalled this conversation later, while on a flight, I discovered anew the relevance of the Bible to our day, with its vivid description of the nature and behaviour of humans in the 21st century 'sophisticated' world.
The apostle John describes the sin principle that dominates humanity. He warns the disciples of Christ not to love the world. "Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world- the cravings of sinful man (lust of the flesh), the lust of his eyes, and the boasting of what he has and does (pride of life) - comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever" (1Jn.2:15-17). The three phrases - the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life - aptly describe the lifestyle of this age. Entitlement stands for 'the pride of life'; entertainment stands for 'the lust of the eyes'; and enjoyment stands for 'the lust of the flesh'.
All over the world, people like to be entitled for so many things. There are those who like to offer entitlements and benefits. Civil society endows upon citizens 'human rights'. These rights are varied and many of them are listed by the media. The interesting and surprising fact is, the civil society has the authority to provide 'human rights' and then take those rights away! Hence, the interpretation of 'human rights' varies from culture to culture, nation to nation. A civil society in the Middle-East, in India, and in China could deprive women of their basic dignity.
This entitlement mentality places man at the centre of the universe. He thinks he is the sun and the people around him are the planets and stars paying him respect and homage. He enjoys being the centre of attraction and attention. The 'pride of life' expresses itself in the form of the entitlement mentality.
A woman decides not to contribute to the welfare of society by working, but demands freebies from the government. For example, she can choose to abort an 'unwanted child' and expect the government to bear the expenses. The 'wages of sin' is a bonus paid by the government for her medical expenses for abortion. Satan wants to negate the biblical principle of 'the wages of sin is death' and bring in a principle that states 'the wages of sin is a special bonus from the government.'
The Indian media is full of horror stories of rape and 'honour' killing. Some of the leaders of dominating castes denounce the victimised women rather than the perpetrators of the crime! The entitlement mentality of men in the 'civilised' society denies women their dignity; it also gives them the right to use women as mere objects to satisfy their lust. They are entitled to any woman they lust for!
Rajat Gupta, a hero of Wall Street, was convicted for insider trading. He abused his privilege and position that entitled him for inside information to benefit himself and his friends. Entitlement mentality generally leads to covetousness and greed.
People like to see, touch and experience. My taxi driver friend had five TV sets in is house, one in each room. It was obvious that he was not comfortable with smart phones and iPhones. Mobile phones, which were just a communication tool for many people around the world, has evolved into an entertainment tool.
Entertainment is integrated into several things. Information with entertainment becomes 'infotainment'. Education with entertainment becomes 'edutainment'. The word 'vanity' used in the Bible is too strong, so people have a 'soft' word for it - entertainment. Two decades ago, people would read books and magazines while travelling. Now the computer savvy generation plays games and watches movies on their mobile devices.
In many churches and fellowships, worship has been turned into performance and entertainment! How can we keep entertainment out of religion? Young 'love birds' play 'angry birds' and become just that. Teenagers who play video car race games fail to differentiate between the virtual images and the real things and end up in tragic accidents.
Satan has packaged 'the lust of the eyes' as novel entertainment. The slow poison of 'novel entertainment' has penetrated all strata of society and numbed the moral senses of the people. The bizarre entertainments are being viewed as 'normal' even among the Christians!
'Work five days to enjoy two days.' For many, the purpose of life is to enjoy, enjoy and enjoy. God Himself prescribed a day of rest in a week, so that people could rest, relax, and perform a reality check of their lives. Sadly, the 'reality checks' in the church on Sundays has been replaced by the 'reality shows' elsewhere!
The 'lust of the flesh' dominates the culture of enjoyment. Visiting romantic places and social clubs, exploring and tasting new varieties of foods, infidelity are some of the things that induce enjoyment. For the postmodern generation, sex is like a game two players play. 'Friends With Benefits' is the new term for those who play this dangerous game.
Many of those who live in cyber or virtual reality find fulfilment in sexual fantasises through pornography which is easily available on the Internet.
E-generation Immune System
The e-generation needs to revamp their immune system to offset the toxic influence of popular culture, mass media and social media. For that, at least three things are required:
Enthronement. "When self is on the throne, Christ is on the cross; when self is on the cross, Christ is on the throne," wrote an author long ago. People who like to follow the Lord Jesus Christ should accept Him as Creator, Saviour and Lord. "Then Jesus said to His disciples, "Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for his soul?"(Matt.16: 24-26).
Empowerment. The disciples of Christ should be reading, memorising, meditating, and applying the word of God in their lives. "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God - this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - His good, pleasing and perfect will" (Rom.12:1-2). A mind that has been influenced, shaped and soaked by popular culture has to be renewed and transformed. The world cannot squeeze a cross-bearing disciple of Christ into its mould; rather, the disciple of Christ is empowered by the Spirit of God to transform the world.
"For the Spirit God does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline" (2Tim.1:7). The in dwelling Holy Spirit gives the disciple boldness and courage. The timid Peter, who once denied his Master, became courageous to proclaim the message to a crowd of 3000 people on the Day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit also gives us grace to forgive and love even our enemies.
Enrichment. While the world worships individualism, the Bible teaches the virtues of healthy relationships. True enrichment comes from living together in harmonious relationship, honouring one another, building one another, sharing one another's burdens and serving. The local church ought to be an ideal place for such relationships to blossom and influence the outside world.
The apostle Peter urges us, "Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us" 1Pet.2:11-12. This is a choice we have to make in response to our high calling in Christ.