God for Our Gadgets: A Short

CC BY-NC, buffdawgus, Flickr
CC BY-NC, buffdawgus, Flickr

Annoyed by the ringing phone, Grant paused his video game and snatched up the receiver before the answering machine came on. He expected someone needing his mom or dad, but it was Josh, the head youth leader at his church. Caught off-guard, Grant grabbed the remote and lowered the sound so he could hear. A baseball game played on another TV.

It was an awkward moment for Grant, who hadn’t attended his teen group, Lighthouse, in more than a month. It wasn’t because he didn’t care for it, but one thing had led to another…the spin he gave Josh: getting over a bad case of flu, tennis tryouts, his band sessions and gigs, and good ole R&R, which usually amounted to hours in video game world.

Grant texted while talking with Josh and even muted the call once to quickly answer his cell and promise a callback. The conversation had grown longer than Grant expected or wanted. Josh invited Grant to play at the church’s upcoming barn party, slated to be a big event. Grant was interested and tentatively accepted, now on his tablet looking over his schedule and then checking email and Facebook messages.

The conversation turned to spirituality. “How’s your devotional life?” Josh asked. Grant rolled his eyes, brushing his hair back and making sure not to sound peeved.

“It’s okay, I guess,” Grant replied, texting again. Josh wasn’t buying it.

“You guess? That doesn’t sound convincing,” Josh replied. Grant booted up his laptop.

“Well, honestly, I really need to get back to Bible reading. I pray fairly regularly though,” Grant said.

“Okay, but you need to be around your peers. That’s where you get accountability and how you stay strong in your faith.” There was silence. Josh continued, “Grant, you’ve been an example to many of the kids, and they’ve been asking about you. I don’t want you to lose your fire and godly example. We all have as much of God as we desire. I just need to be sure Christ remains your priority and that you’re making time for him.”

There wasn’t much Grant could say to that, tossing his cell phone on the bed. He sat down in the Banker’s Chair at his desk and sighed, a little dispirited now. When Josh started wrapping up the call, Grant interjected.

“Hey, can I talk to you for a moment?”

Coupons and Discounted People

CC BY-NC, SamPac, Flickr
CC BY-NC, SamPac, Flickr

My first real job was at a drugstore during my high school years. It was formative for me in many ways, but there is a small, simple lesson I learned there that I want to share with you.

People were always eager for weekly sales, and some items required a coupon to receive the discounted price. But when shoppers didn’t have the required coupon, I would have to deny them their deal because the clipping was…policy (queue music: duhn, Duhn, DUHNN!)

Of course, they hated it and soon I hated it, too—their dissatisfaction and appeals for the manager. But the lesson became bigger than a mere bottle of shampoo or 12-pack of Coke. It was about people…everywhere, particularly the disenfranchised.

The coupon incident let me see a larger group of folk with a host of needs who find themselves in a big business nation that often turns them away with not much more than a Sorry-that’s-policy attitude.

Do you tire of news stories about people going bankrupt and losing their homes because they get sick? I’m shocked that the top tenth of the top one percent of rich Americans control half of the entire nation’s wealth. And I’m beyond maxed with the cavalcade of contests and reality shows that lure and exploit people in the name of money and status.

Those missing coupons did something for me. They sharpened my vision of hurting people, not any wealth I might chance to have. They taught me that if you wish to help others, just do it—don’t make them jump through hoops for what you can freely and simply offer them. Be good to people and make life easier for them with your capital, not always for it.

This approach will also put an end to fundamental but needless questions, like “Do successful people have an obligation to give back?” and “Should athletes be role models?” Those questions always miss the point. Giving back is not a burden; it’s a privilege.

There’s enough wealth in America for each of us to live comfortably as middle-class citizens, but there is little hope of the people who most need that wealth ever seeing it. Moreover, our systems are broken. But what can happen within each of us is sensitivity to other’s needs and the compassion that motivates us to give of ourselves and our substance, expecting nothing in return.