“OK, everybody,” I said, “There is an iPod hidden in this room and if you find it, you can keep it. Go!”
That is how I started the lesson yesterday. It was the first Sunday of February, which means we launched the next topic in our How Do I Fit? Project with the high school youth group. This month we’re looking at God the Son: My Journey with Jesus.
This little experiment had an interesting outcome. Here’s what really surprised me. When I said, “Go!” one third to half of the students just sat in their chairs. They didn’t move.
“Seriously,” I reassured them, “this is legit. There is a brand new iPod, with earbuds, in a box, hidden in this room.”
A minute later, after no one had yet found it, I encouraged them with a subtle hint. “Even a child could find where it is hidden.”
Some searched. Just as many sat in their chairs, disinterested.
Their allotted time limit elapsed and I called the seekers back to their seats. No one found it. I then proceeded to walk to the hidden iPod and revealed its location. It was not a trick. Some of them were very close, but came up short.
We proceeded to unpack the experience. “What just happened?” I asked. “Why did some of you just sit there?”
“Because we didn’t believe you,” one honest girl said.
Another said, “because I already have an iPod, and an iPhone, why would I want to search for one?”
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” (Matthew 13:44)
Why do more people not fervently pursue the kingdom of Heaven? I think our experiment revealed two major reasons: Disbelief and apathy induced by affluence. These are two significant issues related to spirituality in suburbia.
Most people don’t believe the Kingdom of Heaven is real. They say that Jesus–and Christianity in general–is just a carry-over from a dying culture that makes a certain type of person feel good about themselves, but has no real bearing on life. Most people, even some that are Christians, may believe that the Kingdom of Heaven is real, but it is all about what happens after you die. This is such an abstract concept that it is diconnected from every day living in the “real” world.
So, we sit in our chairs.
Others may say, “Why do I need God? I have everything I need. God is just a vague notion of hope for the desperate and outcast.” Storing up “treasure in Heaven” is a quaint idea for Sunday School children, but the real world is all about hard, cold cash, the security of a steady job, a nice home, and a retirement plan.
So, we sit in our chairs.
The challenge for me, and anyone leading in ministry of any sort among the well-educated and affluent, is this. How do you convince people that there really is treasure to be found in following Jesus? It becomes especially difficult when Jesus said that unless you lose everything and take up your cross, you can’t follow him. That doesn’t sound too glamorous or much like treasure, does it?
The Kingdom of Heaven is like an iPod, hidden in the room. Do we sit in our chairs, or do we get up and seek it out?