What’s in it for me?

W.I.I.F.M. ?

Yahoo search gives 268,000 sites using that acronym, that group of initials!

W.I.I.F.M.

Do a search for the phrase it represents and you find more than two and a half MILLION web pages with that exact phrase! It is a phrase which is so popular because it is at the heart of modern sales and marketing techniques. WIIFM.

What’s in if for me? What is the benefit to me for taking the action you suggest? In marketing, “This is a fundamental element of persuasion and influence. When you can communicate a “benefit” to the target that is of more interest than his/her current situation then action/movement in the desired direction will result.”

“What’s in it for me?” Marketing is a strategy that is user centered. It is all about YOU, the most important element of the marketing plan. Satisfy the end user. Give the end-user and experience that they enjoy and they will tell others about that unique experience, therefore leveraging the most elusive form of marketing, “word of mouth”.
Get people to start a conversation about you…you want them to be asking you, “What’s in it for me?”
“One thing I think a lot of us think when we stumble upon something in life is: what’s in it for me? Not because we are extremely selfish. But we spend all day, every day in our bodies and our lives. So I think it’s pretty natural that you think about your own life, problems and challenges a bit more than you think about other people or things. … So what’s in it for me?”

Erwin W. Lutzer wrote this.
Whenever we are faced with a crucial decision, our generation has been taught to ask, What’s in it for me? Will it give me pleasure? Profit? Security? Fulfillment? We are not necessarily opposed to God; we just fit him in wherever he is able to help us. The idea that our wills should be subjected to his control, even when our personal ambitions are at stake, is not easy to accept. We can assent mentally to God’s control, but in practice, we might still spend our lives pleasing ourselves.
The truth is that there are many questions as Christians we should continually ask in life – but “what’s in it for me?” is not one of them!

I started thinking about this topic a few years ago while we were enjoying a very special holiday in America. Two experiences really struck me. The first was visiting a pretty typical American Christian book shop. The second was watching bits of the different channels of “God TV”.

The Christian Book Shop was big. Getting on for the size of Marks and Spencers in Brentwood. Of course it wasn’t all books! Maybe two thirds of the shop was what I am told in the trade is called “holy hardware”. Everything from artwork to clothing – some very interesting ties which I decided I would never dare to wear, and even some very holy socks. All kinds of decorations and trinkets, including most inspiringly a pleasingly large section dedicated to gifts you might want to give your pastor. There was a huge section of Christian music and also another of Christian teaching DVDs to buy and a vast choice of different Bibles – well hopefully the same Bible but in a bewildering variety of translations and bindings. And then there were the books.

What depressed me among the books were the limited range of authors and titles given the size of the shop. But more than that. There were small sections for Bible Study and Theology and serious thinking. But there were much larger sections on Self Improvement. 101 ways to make my life better. In the American consumer culture I shouldn’t have been surprised but I was disappointed at just how many books they were selling to Christians to answer the basic questions, “How can I be a successful Christian?” “How can I be a more happy Christian?” “What can I get out of being a Christian?” “What’s in it for me?”

It is depressing to see that it is exactly those authors whose books clog up the tiny religion sections of bookshops like Smiths and Waterstones in this country. Joyce Meyer and Joel Osteen among others. Not the excellent British Christian authors like Tom Wright or John Stott or even Nicky Gumbel, but American celebrity authors whose books are bestsellers because they pander to that desire to find out “what’s in it for me?”

Then in America I was much less surprised but equally disappointed to see that the same question was at the heart of all the “God TV” programmes I watched bits of. Some of these were national broadcasts, some just local to the county we were in from the Baptist Church just down the road. But time and again the theme was the same. “How can I get God to answer my prayers?” “What can I do to get God to bless me?” What’s in it for me?
Most disappointing. I was not surprised that finding the answers very often involved sending a totally freewill gift to the evangelist or pastor or church.

I know we live in a consumer culture with its twin pillars of personal choice and satisfaction guaranteed. I know we are moving into a postmodern culture where the unholy trinity of “Me, myself and I” reign supreme. But I had hoped for better in the United States where one third of the population are evangelical Christians. I had hoped for better in the deep south Bible belt. But in the end the “public face” of American Christianity in its television and its books seemed to me just as obsessed as the world around is with the fundamental question, “What’s in it for me?”

All this self-obsession seems totally opposite to the life Jesus calls his disciples to live. It seems totally opposite to the attitude the apostle Paul had as he explained it in his farewell address to the Elders of the Church at Ephesus in Acts 20.

19 I served the Lord with great humility and with tears, although I was severely tested by the plots of the Jews. 20 You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house.
22 “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. 24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.

What’s in it for me? For Paul it was the plots of the Jews severely testing him. An exhausting programme of teaching in public and in private. Prison and hardships waiting in Jerusalem which would certainly end in death. Paul goes on,

Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears….. 33 I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. 34 You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. 35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”

It is more blessed to give than to receive. The ninth beatitude – the words of Jesus Himself! Throughout Scripture Jesus puts the primary focus on the joy of giving, not on the return. He offers us the supreme example of what it means to give: He gave His life for us–knowing there was nothing we could give Him in return. God wants us to express His heart. That means we won’t be asking all the time, “What’s in it for me?” We won’t be asking, “What can I get?” but “What can I give?”

It is more blessed to give than to receive. Mt 10:8 Freely you have received, freely give.

We live in a world that is shaped by getting. A world enslaved to consumerism and ruled by greed. If we want to break free from the chains of materialism, we need prayer and generous, sacrificial giving. We need to learn how to give freely as we have freely received.
Richard J. Foster, Money, Sex & Power: “Giving with glad and generous hearts has a way of routing out the tough old miser within us. Even the poor need to know that they can give. Just the very act of letting go of money, or some other treasure, does something within us. It destroys the demon greed.”

Lu 14:12 Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbours; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta
“God loves a cheerful giver. He who gives cheerfully, gives better. … We impatiently await God’s paradise, but we have in our hands the power to be in paradise right here and now. Being happy with God means this: to love as He loves, to help as He helps, to give as He gives, to serve as He serves.”

“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Sadly there is a way in which this truth is distorted by some Christian teachers. They teach that we should give to God so that God will give to us in return. “What’s in it for me?” They teach that the more you give to God the more God will bless you. This wrong idea is at the heart of what may prove to be the greatest danger to the Christian faith in the world today. Because the fastest growing religion in the continent of Africa is not Islam. But nor is it Christianity. The fastest growing religion in Africa is a variation of Pentecostalism which is as dangerous as it is unbiblical. It is what is known as the “prosperity gospel.” It is the mistaken and wrong teaching that if you are a Christian God will always give you health, wealth and success, just as long as you have enough faith. The prosperity gospel. Visiting Tanzania this summer we saw again so many cars in Africa, just like in America, displaying bumper stickers like “Unstoppable Achiever,” “With Jesus I Will Always Win,” and “Your Success Is Determined by Your Faith,” Distressing! There were an impressive number of Christian books in the bookshop at Nairobi airport – but they were all by these health wealth and prosperity authors. Health, wealth and success – the prosperity gospel. Spreading like wildfire all over Africa and now gaining in popularity even in England. You will have heard some of their slogans. “Say it; do it; receive it; tell it.” “Name it and claim it” “Healing in the atonement”. “You believe you receive”. “What I confess, I possess” . Pat Roberston’s “Law of reciprocity” – you give to God and he’ll give back to you”, and Benny Hinn. It worries me that if you don’t know what I am talking about you will hear this kind of teaching on Premier Christian Radio, “Name it and claim it!”

This is not the true gospel! The blessings being promised are NOT the blessings God promises to Christian believers? Very often the prosperity gospel takes Old Testament promises about the material blessings which the nation of Israel was going to enjoy in the promised land, and applies those promises out of context to the lives of individual Christians. But worse than that, promises of health wealth and success encourage people to come to God for what they get from him – to seek the gifts instead of the Giver. When the blessings don’t come as the evangelist has promised, many folk then fall away from faith, or just as bad, are overwhelmed by guilt that they have “failed” to have enough faith.

Christians are meant follow Jesus Christ. Our Lord’s life was not filled with happiness and success but rather with suffering
4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Here is our pattern for Christian living. The sacrifice of the cross. There is no space here for asking, “what’s in it for me?”

And remember the experience of the Apostle Paul, and indeed of the apostles who were martyred for testifying about Jesus and preaching the Good News of the Resurrection.
2 Corinthians 11 23 I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. 27 I have laboured and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.

That is what it cost the Apostle Paul to follow Jesus. Not a life obsessed with the question, “What’s in it for me?” That’s not a question Esther asked when she went as a missionary to rural Zambia more than 40 years ago. That is not a question missionaries ask when they answer God’s call to serve overseas. It is not a question you ask when a person answers the call to train to become a minister, or throws themselves into Christian service as full-time youth workers or evangelists. When any of us gives our lives over to God, we give up any right to ask, “What’s in it for me?” We can only trust God and say, “Your will be done”.

What’s in it for me?” That’s irrelevant. It is more blessed to give than to receive.

This is why harvest time is so important. It teaches us to be grateful for all the good things God gives us so richly to enjoy. And this is why Communion is important. Every time we break the bread and share the cup, it reminds us of everything that Christ gave up for us. Jesus never asked, “what’s in it for me?” Instead He taught us all, It is more blessed to give than to receive.

PRAYER:- Prayer of Richard of Chichester:

Lord give us the grace to serve you as you deserve
To give and not to count the cost
To toil and not to seek for rest
To fight and not to heed the wounds
To labour and not to ask for any reward
Except that of knowing that we are doing your will.

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