In the seventh chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says, “Ask and it will be given to you.” That works wonderfully as a tweet or facebook status, it is short and sounds nice. Yet, the problem with only looking at one part of the chapter leads the reader to take things out of context. That phrase can easily be misconstrued, leading to a sense of entitlement.
Last year, Ashton Kutcher was awarded the “Ultimate Choice Award,” a lifetime achievement award from the Teen Choice Awards. While this award isn’t looked at as highly as an Oscar or Nobel Prize, Kutcher took the opportunity to speak to the younger generation on the value of hard work, opportunity, and living life.
Through the typical screams of “We love you, Ashton,” he spoke of opportunity. He spoke of the different jobs he had growing up, from sweeping floors to working at a supermarket. It seems to me that Kutcher was touching on the point that people in general feel that jobs are “a given.” I go to school, get good grades, get a job, and make money. However, if you look at the unemployment rate here in New Jersey and the United States along with the amount of people who have given up looking for work, one will find that jobs are not simply “given.”
Later, Kutcher would appear on talk shows where he explained that he believes there is an entitlement society today that isn’t healthy for people and isn’t healthy for the country. He alluded to the fact that people want success; they want fame without the work. He pointed to the ideology that people feel they can be above a job. Kutcher, enthusiastically said in his acceptance speech, “I never had a job that I was better than. I was just lucky to have a job.” Kutcher explained this point further that kids today want to be “famous” rather than having the desire to “do something…build something…create something.” At the same time, people do not want to take the necessary steps to achieve what they want. Kutcher exclaimed that people “don’t want to take a job at Starbucks because they think it’s below them.” This all-too-common view of the world is driven by a form of prideful fear; it is crippling our younger generation as the try to find themselves in this world.
Kutcher also explained that while making a movie about Steve Jobs, the creator and mastermind behind Apple, Inc., he came to a realization about living life. He said that we are made to believe that life “is the way it is” and we can get stuck in that mentality and just roll through the motions of living life in that world: getting a job, having a family, making money, etc. He said, however, that everything around us that we call “life” was created by those “no smarter than you.” Teens and young adults today are too easily discouraged from attaining the greatness accomplished by so few. When faced with the narrow, difficult road before them, they shy away to the broad easy way of life and simply go through the motions and still gain some form of happiness and success.
As our younger generation is fed these lies telling them they can take the easy road and achieve success and happiness, that has the potential to negatively affect the Church. If our younger brothers and sisters buy into the lie that money and status equal success; that blessings are “things” and things make you happy; then when they try to ask the Lord what their purpose is in life, they are confused and discouraged. All too often they may opt to choose the easy road. In prayer, they may ask the Lord to help them discern, but they neglect the second half of Matthew chapter 7. They ask, but it is too often they ask the Lord to bend His will to theirs. They seek but they seek the easy road. They knock, but don’t look for other doors when the door they want doesn’t open. If one looks further in Matthew 7, he or she would read:
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.”
Jesus did not call His disciples to lay low, avoid conflict, and to a life of easy work. Christ said “pick up your cross and follow me.” If one looks at the Lord’s call to His first disciples, or at the lives of the saints throughout the ages, they are anything but lives of glamorous fame, but of hard work for the sake of the Gospel. The Lord’s promise is that we were made for greatness that can only be achieved with and through Him. He calls us to travel the more difficult road as He did. We discern His call, answer His call with unwavering courage, and give our lives working hard to live out His call. Through His call we will be given something—grace. He gives us the grace to, as Ashton Kutcher said, “do something, build something,” we build Christ’s kingdom on earth.