More than conquerors - and not victims

Tim Costello on God’s perspective

I have been reflecting on how hope expresses itself in gratitude.

I recently expressed the view that wealthy and closeted middle Australia wrongly feels it is doing it hard, and some consider their annual trip to Bali, or the latest mobile gadget, to be fundamental human rights – while remaining oblivious to real suffering overseas. It seems to me to be a loss of perspective, and those comments caused some outrage.

Gratitude … is an unfashionable, almost forgotten virtue.

More rage ensued when I called on my fellow Christians to calm down about their alleged persecution, amid the calls for a tough religious freedom bill.

The automatic response by some Australian Christians to claim victimhood is, I believe, sadly misplaced.

We might expect secular culture – without Christian hope – to feel this way but not those who should know that, in Christ, we are more than conquerors, certainly not victims.

I know only too well the personal temptation of moving towards victimhood and entitlement.

But what would be God’s perspective? Surely he would remind us that we Australians are blessed to live in a wealthy nation with access to education and health services. He would counsel us to have a heightened awareness of  those less fortunate rather than  complaining about how hard off we are.

Gratitude, along with humility, is an unfashionable, almost forgotten virtue. It can offend our self-centred sense of entitlement by forcing us to admit that our lives, and everything within them, are gifts. Faith can mean seeing justice for the poor as ultimately more important than brand labels and expensive holidays and travel.

In the face of the ancient obsession with material things, Jesus pointed to a lily, and a sparrow, and calmly said, “Trust. Seek first the kingdom of heaven.” He focused on the joy of giving, not on the promise of return.

He said we were foolish if we wanted to “lay up treasures’’ for ourselves and ignore God and our fellow creations.

I’m saddened that our rich middle-class homes have become incubators of self-righteous apathy.

Consumerism has become a modern theology. And what gets easily lost in all this is the message of social justice.

It surprises me that some Australians on $120,000 per year – or more – believe they are doing it tough, and are angry that our nation gives “too much” in foreign aid (although we give much less than most nations).

I’m saddened that our rich middle-class homes have become incubators of self-righteous apathy. Health and wealth are the expected repercussions of hard work, clean living and respect for authority. Struggle, hope, gratitude and faith do not come into the equation.

Tim Costello is a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Public Christianity.

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