David Brooks, a columnist for the NY Times, published an opinion piece this week entitled, “Five Lies Our Culture Tells.” I highly recommend this article.

Here are the five lies he has identified:

  1. Career success is fulfilling.
  2. I can make myself happy.
  3. Life is an individual journey.
  4. You have to find your own truth.
  5. Rich and successful people are worth more than poorer and less successful people.

The power of this piece is that Brooks names the lies that our culture tells us and that all too often, we have bought into. These aren’t just lies we tell ourselves. They are alternate gospel narratives that ultimately proclaim a message that “I” and “my success” are most important.

This isn’t new. It’s a gospel narrative that has been around for a long time. The individual parts may vary, but the core of the message is always the same – you are god and you are in control of your destiny.

Today we hear similar cliches that proclaim that same message – “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” In other words, it’s up to you to figure it out – you are in control. “Only the strong survive.” “The ends justify the means.”

Jesus dealt with this same alternate gospel in his day too. The whole message of the reign of God is in direct conflict with the lies of the alternate gospel.

The Gospel of Jesus tells us that our worth doesn’t come from what we do, but rather whose we are.

The Gospel of Jesus proclaims that happiness is not the ultimate purpose in life – rather to be in right relationship with God and others, and to serve God and others.

The Gospel of Jesus tells us that we are part of a larger family – the family of God, not lone rangers on our own.

The Gospel of Jesus proclaims that Jesus is the way and the truth.

The Gospel of Jesus tells us that the poor and less successful are favored by God and that we are to do what we can to empower them so they can be fully who they are created to be, and so that the community is whole.

Holy Week presents some unpleasant truths that we have to deal with – the reality of false gospels, and that following Jesus is uncomfortable because it conflicts with our culture.

They may not be pleasant truths – but they are the truth and Jesus proclaims it to us to live into.