When I was boy, there was a game show on television called “Let’s Make A Deal.” On the show, a contestant was shown three curtains to choose from. Behind one of the curtains, there was usually a gag prize such as a live mule or a bucket of dirt. Behind the other two curtains were expenses prizes. The object of the game was to choose one of the curtains that had prizes behind it. After the contestant chose a curtain, the curtain was opened to reveal what the contestant won.
Another popular show was “The Dating Game.” If a guy was lucky enough to get on the show and answer the questions the right way, he got to go on an all-expense paid “date” with the beautiful woman who was asking the questions.
One game show offered instant money and prizes, while the other game show offered instant love (or the illusion that love was on the way), all without the necessity of any sacrifice or work.
Now, 50 years later, the stakes have been increased with shows like “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” which promise the contestants both money and love, all in one show.
There’s a desire in all of us to want something for nothing. We all want (and need) to be loved. And it doesn’t hurt to have some extra money to go along with the love to make our lives easier. These very real human desires are constantly being preyed upon by companies and advertisers.
“Who wants to be a millionaire?” That popular game show which began airing in 1999, made huge profits for ABC and its host, Regis Philbin. The show made an offer that was hard to turn down. Get on the show, answer some questions, go home with a pile of money.
Of course, when a person is unable to qualify for one of the game shows, he can always lay a dollar bill on the counter inside of a gas station and have a chance to win millions from the lottery. Another tempting “opportunity” to get something for nothing, without the necessity of work or sacrifice.
Who ultimately wins on the game shows and with government sponsored gambling? The answer is obvious: The sponsors and the advertisers.
It’s not only money and love that we want without having to work or sacrifice. We would all like to be able to take a pill at night and wake up thin (without the need to exercise or cut back on the foods we like). Next time you see a diet ad, look at what’s being offered in the ad – all of the foods you like, including dessert. The promise in the ad is: “take a pill (or drink), eat what you want, and wake up thin, without having to sacrifice or work at it.”
How about the newest “ab machine” that’s advertised on television? Buy it, use it a few times, go to bed, wake up with flat, muscular, washboard abs. Isn’t that what the advertisement is really promising? Perfect abs with little or no work or sacrifice involved?
How about that new secret formula that has been repeatedly “discovered” over and over again? All you need to do is either drink it or apply a couple of drops to your skin and members of the opposite sex will find you irresistible and overwhelm you with love and affection (without the need for you to sacrifice or work at developing a relationship).
I have a question for you: Do you think this “something for nothing” mentality spills over into our spiritual lives?
The same media that plays a part in promising “something for nothing” assumes that most of the people who die automatically go to heaven. When the great comedian Johnny Carson died, someone was quoted in the media as saying that he was in heaven with Jack Benny cracking jokes. When the radical journalist Hunter Thompson committed suicide by blowing his brains out with a shotgun, one of his family members was quoted as saying that he was in heaven sharing stories with his fellow comrades.
Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying that Johnny Carson, Jack Benny and Hunter Thompson are not in heaven. Only God and the souls who are in heaven know whether or not they made it there; however, the media would have us believe that if there is a heaven, everyone that the media likes ends up there regardless of the way they behaved prior to their death.
Heaven is reserved for saints, and sainthood comes with a heavy price – a price that includes prayer, work, sacrifice, self-denial, and at times, extended suffering.
There is no “pill” a person can take to become a saint. Yet we often act as though there is one.
The truth is that anything in life (and beyond life) that is worthwhile involves planning, effort, determination, hard work, and sacrifice. You want to lose weight and keep it off? Plan your meals ahead of time, significantly reduce your consumption of carbohydrates and sugar, and exercise every day.
Do you want to get your body into shape? Watch what you eat and come up with a rigorous workout regimen that you will follow every day for the next 6 weeks. If you stick to it, you may be able to peel off some fat and add some muscle to your body.
Do you want to be a millionaire? First, spend at least 5000 hours of your time learning a financially valuable skill. Second, spend at least 5000 hours of additional time learning how to market and promote yourself. Third, write down your goals for the next three years, including your annual, quarterly and monthly goals. Then as each month approaches, write down the weekly tasks you will need to accomplish to achieve your monthly goals. Fourth, plan each day before the day starts to make sure you take the time to accomplish your goals for the week. Fifth, go out into the marketplace and hustle every day to establish relationships and trust among the people and businesses that will benefit from what you have to offer. Sixth, sacrifice and deny yourself time with family and friends so you can dedicate more time to your work. Seventh, work smarter and harder than all of your competitors.
Do you want to become a saint and earn the right to spend eternity with God? If you do, what plan do you have in place? Attending Mass once a week and saying a few prayers every day won’t cut it. What sacrifices are you willing to make? How many hours each week are you willing to dedicate to prayer and spiritual reading? How hard are you willing to work at serving others and spreading the word of God? What is your lifetime plan to get into heaven and how does that plan break down into years, months, weeks, and days?
When you die, you’re not going to be able to make a deal with God. Within a split second of your death, He’s going to reveal to you a record of everything you ever thought, did and said. May I suggest to you that today would be a good day to come up with a plan as to what you’re going to do to make sure that your record of performance guarantees your admittance into heaven. A word to the wise: Make sure your record includes an extensive (weekly) list of spiritual sacrifices and works of mercy.