I am not a big fan of so-called women’s magazines. But I am a supermarket shopper and, as a consequence, I am an avid reader of the covers of a wide assortment of the publications in the checkout aisle. In addition to the usual recipes, weight-loss strategies and celebrity gossip, I have noticed a trend in recent years: self-indulgence.
“Make More Time for You,” the magazine covers urge me. Apparently, I should be hiring more babysitters, taking more bubble baths and spending more time at spa resorts. And I should be doing all of these things why? Because I deserve it.
But magazines are not the only place we are likely to find the modern philosophy of hedonism and entitlement. “Because I’m worth it,” the super models tell us about the latest hair colors and skin creams. A popular brand of foil-wrapped chocolates features messages on its wrappers that instruct: “Promise yourself more moments like this” and “You worked hard. Promise yourself a reward.” And — get this — “You are the star for which all evenings wait.”
Yup, that’s me. A star. I am so very important. As a result, I am entitled to glamour, luxury and extravagance every moment of my life. I do wish someone would explain that to my 13-month-old son, the one who insists on using me as his personal spit-up rag. And then there’s the pesky little problem of a husband and children who have the annoying habit of requiring clean clothes, a tidy house and nutritious meals on a regular basis.
On a recent TV show, I saw a woman, a mother of three, who was planning to spend more than $10,000 on plastic surgery. I thought this fact alone was scandalous enough, but when I heard the woman’s justification for having the surgery, I was aghast.
“I work hard,” she brazenly told the camera, “and I deserve this.”
When we hear such messages repeated over and over, it can be tempting to buy into their worldview. But, deep down, those of us who are Christians simply know better.
The main difference between the soon-to-be plastic woman and slack-jawed Catholic viewers, though, is not one that we can take personal credit for. Through no merit of our own, we followers of Christ have been given a priceless gift. We have been blessed with the knowledge that each of us truly is important and that each of us is special. Rather than basing our personal worth on material possessions or physical attributes, however, we recognize that each one of us is a child of God and it is therein that we discern our self worth.
Rather than proclaiming deservedness for every indulgent thing on earth, Christians know what a blessing it is that God does not give us what we truly deserve. In his infinite goodness and mercy, God forgives our sins and prepares us for eternal life with him in heaven.
“Merciful and gracious is the Lord, slow to anger, abounding in kindness,” the psalmist writes (Psalm 103). “God does not always rebuke, nurses no lasting anger, has not dealt with us as our sins merit, nor requited us as our deeds deserve. As the heavens tower over the earth, so God’s love towers over the faithful. As far as the east is from the west, so far have our sins been removed from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on the faithful.”
That’s good news everyone deserves to hear.