Recently, we had a conversation with my oldest son about the possibility of cutting back on some of his activities because of time and money. As we talked about his involvement in his travel baseball team, a major factor for playing on this team became apparent … the swag. We have a team parent who’s awesome at getting sponsorship for the kids and they get some pretty nice stuff–baseball bags, jackets, pants, Under Armour shirts, and hats. This team looks good wherever they go. My son looked at us and said, “You wouldn’t buy me a baseball bag that nice.” He’s right; we wouldn’t. So he was willing to sacrifice a lot of time and money to get the swag.
The truth is, I like swag too. I’m willing to give up a lot, as long as I get some swag out of it. As a Christian, I’ve gotten used to getting “swag” from God. I’ve got a nice house in a quiet town. I’ve got four beautiful, healthy, smart, talented kids and a great husband who works really hard to support our family. He has his own artist management company, and every day he goes to a job he loves, helping Christian artists. We’ve had opportunities to serve at our church and use our gifts for the kingdom. We’re in good health and physically capable of doing a lot of things. I’ve had people who have affirmed my spiritual gifts and given me many places to use them. I’ve had the luxury of pursuing dreams and investing in people.
But happens when God messes with my swag? What happens when the perks of being on God’s team disappear? Will I still want to play on His team? Will I still trust Him to be my coach? Have I been playing the Christian game just to get the swag?
In John 6, Jesus fed 5,ooo people in one sitting. (If you’ve ever tried to cook for a large group of people, you know what a miracle this is.) As a result, a lot of followers decided to keep following Jesus. They followed Him all the way to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. But soon, their true motives were revealed. “You are looking for Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate the loaves and were filled” (John 6:26). They were following because they found a guy who could make bread, and they thought they’d never have to work for bread again. They wanted a bread machine, not the bread of life. Later Jesus explained, “My Father gives you the real bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the One who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world … I am the bread of life” (John 6:32-33,35).
I must confess that I often want Jesus to be my bread machine, making my life comfortable and easy. I don’t want the bread He has to offer. I don’t want to do the hard faith work of trusting, resting, abiding, and believing. I just want Him to give me the swag. And when the wasteland comes, and all the perks disappear, I don’t think it’s so cool to follow Him. In fact, I throw a temper tantrum and refuse to follow until He gives me what I want.
But following Jesus and being on His team is not about the swag. It’s not about how cool you look or how great your life becomes when you obey His commands. I don’t follow Him because of the blessings or the miracles. I follow Him because He’s God, and I’m not. He can make bread from nothing, and I can’t. I follow because God gave His one and only Son to show how much He loved me. He paid a debt He didn’t owe so I could have an eternal life I don’t deserve. He owes me nothing, and I owe Him everything. It’s not about the swag; it’s about following Him one step at a time.
Joy Patton is the author of “From Ice Queen To Princess” and “The Myth Of Enuff.” She grew up as a pastor’s daughter in Macedonia, Ohio. Joy and her husband enjoy leading a small group and mentoring newlyweds through their church. Follow her blog at joypatton.wordpress.com.