If Something Is Available To Us Is That The Same As We Deserve It?

If you prefer to watch a video, click on this link: Watch the video.

How many times do we hear on the TV or radio that the product being advertised is one that “you deserve to have?”  For instance, Lasik (the laser eye treatment) is now better than ever so you can have the eyesight you deserve.

Here are some other examples I found in an article on a Google search (italics added):

“”You deserve Virgin Mobile.”

“You deserve NEW, NOW!” shouts a billboard for a housing development in the San Francisco Bay Area.

“The most original people deserve the most original vodka,” reads the tagline on a series of ads for Stoli.

Weight-loss products from motivational speaker Tony Robbins claim to give you “the body you deserve” (thin and healthy).

A 2012 book from the popular financial writer Suze Orman promises “the future you deserve” (rich and happy).”

Skipping the Internet and going “old school” I used a thing called a Dictionary to look up what “deserve” means. It says, “to be worthy of or entitled to” and the word “deserved” means “merited; earned.”

So what is my “beef” about this morning? It’s about the UN-deserved attitude of entitlement that people have today which is promulgated and enforced by advertising. The air waves bring us the news (fake and designed to disturb) as well as the TV shows we watch, whether you have cable, satellite or stream them. And who is in charge of the air waves? If you’re asking me (and I assume you are) it is not ABC, or CBS or CNN- it is the one who the Bible tells us is in charge of the air, the Prince of the Air…Satan! (Ephesians 2:2)

I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s and my attitude toward people is highly influenced by what I was conditioned to think watching TV as a child. Yes, I used the word “conditioned” because that is what advertising does to us. Nearly 1/3 of every hour of TV is advertising and we watch hours of TV every day. That equates to hundreds of hours of advertising every year. I was in Sales for about 15 years and learned that the career most closely related to sales is psychology. One of the most important lessons I ever learned as a sales professional is that people don’t buy what they need, they buy what they want, and sales is a means of making people think what you have is what they want. The advertising focus when I grew up was that a product was needed and helpful, but now it is focused not on needing the product but deserving it. When we deserve something we think “I want what I deserve; I want what I have earned; I want what I am entitled to have- give me what is mine!”

This pseudo entitlement goes beyond just products and services- it can even influence our spiritual position. People think that they are entitled to be saved, that they have earned their salvation because they go to church every Sunday or keep a Kosher house (although they don’t stay Kosher outside the home.)  People think that they deserve to have what they want because that is what they are told (over and over) every 20 minutes while watching TV. The message that sticks in our self-absorbed and hedonistic brains is this: if I want it I deserve it! The result is that people believe because God made salvation free to have that I deserve it, I am entitled to it and I don’t have to do anything to keep it.

No, you aren’t and yes, you do! None of us automatically deserves anything. Even though salvation is free to all who ask, we don’t deserve it and we aren’t entitled to it. And we have to work hard to keep it. Salvation is here for us to have ONLY because God is gracious and loving. And very, VERY merciful.

Moses tells the children of Israel in Deuteronomy 9:6 they aren’t in the land because they deserve it but because the other nations have so terribly sinned that God is ejecting them.  He further tell them that they are stiff-necked and if (and when) they also reject God they will also be thrown out of the land.

This message isn’t just for the children of Israel going into the land- it is for every single one of us today.  Salvation comes through faith, and faith must be based on a humble and repentant attitude. We need to ask for forgiveness and we need to ask for salvation- we are not deserving or entitled to it. But because of the conditioning from advertising which we are constantly and inescapably exposed to, we begin to think that we are entitled to everything.

I am not saying that we should get rid of all advertising- we can’t. Advertising is an essential thing to have so that we can know what products and services are available to us. What I am suggesting is that we use discretion and common sense when we are exposed to advertising. And we definitely need to point out to our children how wrong are many of the things advertisers try to tell us. We need to remember that what we are told by people selling things is focused on our sinful nature- there is not one moment of advertising I can think of which appeals to our better nature, other than animal rescue commercials. Maybe those commercials that ask for funding of charitable organizations, too, but other than that it is all about me me me and what I deserve to have.

Today’s message is that you must stay humble in the light of your remarkable amount of entitlement; remain steadfast and frugal despite the fact that you deserve to have so many of these wonderful products. Remember that you really don’t deserve anything other than that which you have worked for. Salvation is something we ask for and receive freely, but it takes a lot of work to keep it. We have to live our lives for God and not for self in a world that is all about self. That, my friends, is hard work. And if you stay the course, keep your eyes focused on your eternal reward and not just something that you can get from E-Bay then you will do well.

You don’t deserve salvation and you aren’t entitled to happiness or peace of spirit, but you can have it for free because God is gracious and loving. And once we accept it we then need to work hard to keep it. Just like the land God promised to Abraham’s descendants, they received it as God’s gift but once there they had to deserve to stay in it by obeying God.

Things are no different today.


Humility Takes Strength

Many people believe that to be humble means to be weak and ineffective.

Some are humble from self-doubt or a low self-esteem, but those who are humble in the way God wants us to be humble find that humility comes from inner strength, and as a result strengthens oneself to not feel the need to prove oneself to others.

Those who are humble before the Lord and show that humility in their relationship with others are, for my money, the ones I want to have on my side if there was trouble.


Parashah Chukkat (Regulations) Numbers 19-22

This parashah starts with the regulations about the Red Heifer ashes being used to cleanse people defiled by contact with a dead body. We then find ourselves in the 40th year of the desert travels, with Miriam dying, leaving Israel with no water (we will come back to this soon.) Aaron and Moses are told by God to strike the rock to give water, but in his anger Moses strikes it twice, and claims that he and Aaron are the ones giving them water (Numbers 20:10):

He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?

This statement made God angry because they did not give the proper credit to God and make Him holy in the sight of the people, and their punishment was severe- Moses and Aaron were prohibited from entering the land of Canaan.

The rest of this parashah tells us of the death of Aaron, describes the sin of rebellion that caused God to send snakes against the people, and the successful military battles of the people against Arad (this battle is out of place, chronologically, as it had preceded the battle referred to in Numbers 14:40-45), ending with their conquering Og, the King of Bashan and Sichon, the king of Heshbon and taking all their lands (which later were the lands in which Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh settled.)

As I have complained about so many times…where do I start? There is just so much in this one parashah to talk about. But I did promise to come back to the point about there being no more water after Miriam died, so let’s start there.

Miriam is considered to be one of the three good leaders of Israel and Jewish legend says that due to her merit, the rock which brought forth water accompanied Israel as long as she lived. Reference to this rock is made by Shaul in 1 Corinthians, 10:3-4:

They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was the Messiah.

This is confusing: Jewish legend has it that Miriam was the Rock that produced the water, and here a well-trained, knowledgeable Pharisee is saying that it wasn’t Miriam, but Yeshua who was the Rock travelling with Israel through the desert. The bible isn’t supposed to contradict itself, so what do we make of this seeming contradiction? I looked this up in the Jewish New Testament Commentary, by Dr, Daniel Stern: he related many of the different ways the term “Rock” has been used to describe God and Messiah, both in scripture and in songs, but in the end he confessed he didn’t know why Shaul (Paul) used it this way in his letter. Maybe we will never know what was in Shaul’s mind at the time, just like I don’t think we will ever know what he meant when he wrote about the “Israel of God” at the end of Galatians, either.

But we can say that this is not a biblical contradiction because Miriam being the Rock is not specifically stated in Torah- it is just a legend. And Shaul referring to the Rock as Messiah is nothing more than a descriptive analogy which doesn’t contradict any specific event in Torah.

This issue does present us with a midrash from today’s parashah: do we always need to understand what we read in the bible? The commentary in the Chumash states that the ordinance regarding the Red Heifer is so mysterious that even King Solomon was unable to fathom it’s meaning. In Jewish history, Johanan ben Zakkai told his students, “…but the law concerning the Red Heifer is a decree of the All-holy, Whose reasons for issuing that decree it behoves not mortals to question.”  In other words, God said it is to be that way and that’s all we mere mortals need to know.

And that is, in my opinion, the main reason people reject God and create their own religions: we want to know why. We HAVE to know why! It is a compulsion, and I believe that it is based on the desire for power. As they say, knowledge is power, and people want to be more powerful than the next guy, so if I understand God better than you I am above you, more powerful than you, and deserve to lead you.  Selfish, self-centered, egotistical behavior…all innately human. The good news is that this need to know why drives us to scientific investigation and, thereby, is the root cause of the discovery of useful and wonderful inventions, as well as all the medical and technological advancements we have made over the centuries.

On the other hand, that alone may be reason to question if needing to know the “why” of everything is actually a good thing. Technology has taken us over, medical advancements have cured diseases but the cost of discovery is so high no one can afford the cure! We know how to read the human genome, and how to use stem cell technology, but the more we learn about our genetic make-up, the closer we come to thinking we are like God because we are able to heal, and even create life. That is NOT a good attitude to have.

Maybe we should try to be more humble, less inquisitive and more accepting of God’s omniscience so we can be more obedient? Isn’t it time to redirect our footsteps from the path of discovery to the ways of worship?

I think we should, but I  don’t see it ever happening. Human nature is inquisitive, curious, and we all want to be self-determining. We want to be in charge, we want to know what it is all about, and we want to have control over our lives. It is the reason we were thrown out of Eden; it is the reason we sinned with the Golden Calf; it is what killed Dathan, Abiram and Korach; it has been the bane of humanity and the foundation of sin since humanity was created. And I don’t think it is going to end until humanity ends in the Acharit HaYamim (End Days.) Once we are no longer shackled with this mantle of sinful flesh and are resurrected into our eternal, spiritual bodies will we be able to enjoy and find peace in being humble and obedient to God, constantly worshiping Him. Humility and obedience is just not part of our DNA, and no amount of Recombinant DNA, cloning, stem cell technology or biological research will ever put it there.

We need to work at being humble and accepting what God said to do as simply something we should do. To paraphrase from the great poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson:

Ours not to reason why; ours but to do and live!

So do what God says (that’s the stuff in the Torah, in case you weren’t sure) and do so without asking why, without kvetching about it, and without trying to figure out what it all means.  Really- understanding what God means won’t get you any more “saved” than the next person, and a Gnostic search for meaning just might end up pulling you further from your salvation than bringing you closer to it.