The gospel of Starbucks, given to you

A couple weeks ago, I lost my Gold level status at Starbucks after having it for three or four years. The reason? I did not perform as required to keep my status as an elite member. All at once, I was slightly depressed that I would no longer enjoy the benefits of membership, and extremely determined to regain my status as quickly as possible.

For those of you that need a refresher course on how to qualify for Starbucks Gold Level, here are the rules, taken directly from their website (1 Star = 1 transaction. 30 purchases to get 30 stars):

“Collect 30 Stars within 12 months and step up to the Gold level for one year. Once you’re at Gold level it takes another 30 Stars to maintain Gold level for another 12 months. If you don’t qualify for the Gold level again by your anniversary date (i.e. the date you qualified for the Gold level), you’ll revert to the Green level and lose all your Stars. Don’t let that happen!”

Perform, and we will reward you. Stop performing, and you won’t be part of the club.Those are the rules of engagement. When I first reached Gold, I was elated. They really did make me feel special and prideful by sending a shiny and thick gold card in the mail. But interestingly, with the elation also came anxiety. Now I had to keep proving that I was loyal to them, or else my status would disappear. 30 stars between now and the next 12 months or I’m out. I lose it all.

And that is the case with most reward programs. Get 8 stamps on your punch card at Golden Spoon and they’ll give you a free 8 oz. Yogurt. Keep your savings above a minimum balance with Wells Fargo, and they won’t fee you. Pay $80 a year to Amazon and they’ll put you in the Amazon Prime club.

But here’s what happens with me:

I collected stamps on my Golden Spoon punch card over the course of about five years—yes, five years—until it was brown on the edges and worn like old leather. When I finally reached eight stamps, I happily went in for my free yogurt, ordered it, and then showed them the card…

“We don’t accept those anymore,” she said.

I frowned and tilted my head, “You don’t accept them anymore? I’ve been working at this for five years! What do you mean you don’t accept them anymore?” She didn’t budge. I paid with debit, and on the way out, I threw my punch card in the trash.

With Wells Fargo, I sometimes go below the minimum balance or make too many transfers in a month. Since they have a system of laws and regulations, they fee me.

I bought Amazon Prime when I was a student, hungry for books, and the fast, free shipping was great. But as soon as I graduated, I couldn’t justify the $80. So they took me off the list.

We’re human. We fluctuate in performance. But reward programs are based on your consistency and loyalty.

Let me switch gears here for a quick moment and relate these experiences to another experience. It may or may not resonate with you, but that’s OK.

Unfortunately, over time I’ve seen this “reward program” mentality seep into the way I think about my relationship with God. If I just keep showing up for my time with God at least five days a week, and make a transaction every time, God will keep my Gold level status. If I keep my prayer time at a minimum balance of 15 minutes a day, God won’t fee me. If I show my loyalty by getting eight stamps on my quiet time punch card, maybe on the ninth time, something amazing will be given to me.

None of these are true, of course, but lies like these find out how to seep into the way we think about our relationship with Him.

Thankfully, God does not have a secret club of those who have paid their dues. His words to everyone are “Come to me, and I will give you rest.” His mode of operation is grace upon grace upon grace for those who confess and believe. His call is to follow him, not to appease a system of rules and regulations.

You have a choice: exhaustion through believing the false gospel of performance and earning your own way in. Or replenished life through believing the gospel of Jesus Christ, his death and resurrection. He has performed all of the necessary work for you and he himself is the way in.

This is my body, given for you.

This is my blood, poured out to purchase back your souls.