Have you ever attended an event that gave out Swag Bags? In case you aren’t familiar with the term, Swag Bags are goodie bags that contain free prizes or gifts for the participants. Golfers often receive little bags of golf balls and tees when they play in a tournament. Perhaps the most famous Swag Bags are those given out at the Oscars. Contents this year included a coupon for fitness training ($1400), three night stays at various hotels around the world ($15,000), a year’s worth of Audi rentals ($45,000), and a VIP all-access trip to Israel ($55,000).
Swag bags have become more than a little goodie bag with bonus prizes. They have become an expected perk- something that participants feel like they deserve. They have created an entitlement mindset of sorts: Here I am, so where’s my bag?
In my experience as a pastor, I am afraid that same mindset of swag bag entitlement is being encouraged when it comes to following Jesus. In their zeal to introduce Jesus to someone who isn’t a follower, some believers incorrectly represent what it means to follow Jesus. The picture they paint is of a Jesus who is more like a genie than a Master. He’s a superhuman problem solver whose function is to come to where we are, listen to what we want, and give us what we ask for. In that scenario, Jesus is the bearer of the spiritual swag bag, which contains answered prayers, God’s favor, and solutions to our problems. Here I am, Jesus. Where’s my bag?
Please understand that I believe Jesus Christ cares about us, He listens to our prayers, and He answers them. I get that. My point is to assert that followers of Christ must do a better job of describing what it really means to follow Christ. Instead of looking for a swag bag of blessings, following Jesus involves agreeing to terms of unconditional surrender of who we are are what we have.
While we think that we invite Jesus into our lives, it’s actually Jesus that issues the invitation to follow Him. Instead of “trying Jesus out for a while to see if things work out,” our mindset ought to be one of amazement that He will allow us to join Him in what He’s doing. Instead of following Jesus to receive blessing, we follow Jesus as an act of surrender and obedience. Following Jesus isn’t about what we get. It’s about what we give.
If you don’t believe me, read how Jesus portrayed the life of his followers. He used words like dying, being last, and considering others more important than ourselves. Jesus taught that following him involved serving, suffering, giving, yielding, and trouble. And in case you’re wondering, Jesus promised a reward for his followers. But that reward will be given in the next life, not in the form of a swag bag in this life.
Let’s be honest about what it means to follow Jesus. It isn’t about swag. It’s about surrender. I’m not sure I’ll think about swag bags the same again.