Are You Suffering From F.O.M.O. / Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Sunday, July 21, 2019
Rev. Donald P. Beaumont

Luke 10:38-42

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”


I hate to admit it, but I really admire advertisers and their ability to sell us products we don’t even know we need. Some of these advertisers are geniuses at convincing us that if we just had their product, it would fill some hole in our lives and would bring us complete satisfaction.

One of the more famous ads along these lines came out in the early 1970s. It was an ad for Schlitz Beer. The ad implied that Schlitz Beer was the ultimate beer experience. The tagline went like this, You only go around once in life: Go for all the gusto you can. Remember that advertising slogan? What does that even mean? I don’t know, but consumers loved it. Everyone knew the Schlitz Beer tagline, even those who didn’t drink beer.

There’s a term you’ll hear advertisers use today, and it refers to a recent phenomenon in our society. It’s called “FOMO” the Fear of Missing Out. It’s the idea that someone somewhere is having a better time than we are, living a richer life than we are, attending a better party or taking a better vacation than we are, and that we’d better cram as many experiences into our life as possible so we don’t miss out on the good life. After all, You only go around once in life.

FOMO is popping up in other areas of our society as well. When the stock market was soaring in early 2018, many experts attributed it in part to FOMO, people were afraid of missing out on great returns on their money. Later many of them wished they had placed their money somewhere safer.

The origin of FOMO seems to have come from an article written by a young man named Patrick McGinnis at Harvard Business School. Patrick and his buddies were young, ambitious, and reasonably well-off. In their early twenties, they experienced the collapse of the dotcom and tech stocks in 2008, which drastically affected the stock market. They also experienced 9/11 and the terrorist planes crashing into the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. These experiences created a lot of anxiety in these young people, and a desire to live life to the fullest, because you never knew when it would all fall apart.

Patrick started noticing that he and his friends were cramming their social schedules with as many parties, events, adventures as possible. But they didn’t seem to be enjoying these experiences. Instead, they had a nagging feeling that somebody somewhere was having a better time than they were. So, he wrote an article about this situation, and he called it FOBO, the Fear of Better Options. This later became the phenomenon FOMO, the Fear of Missing Out. Patrick describes it this way: “All you wanted to do was live life to the fullest at every second. You felt the need to do everything all the time because you’d seen your own mortality.”

Texting and social media made FOMO even worse. Suddenly, you could let friends know that you were at the coolest new restaurant in town, or you could post pictures of yourself at a much-desired vacation spot. You could even let people know that you’re here at Bethel. Now everybody felt this instant pressure to do more, to search for some new and amazing experience or adventure, so they could impress their friends. Suddenly, people were so overwhelmed by their options and so driven by the Fear of Missing Out that they literally couldn’t make a decision, couldn’t commit to anything, because if they committed to one party, or place or option, then they might miss out on other, better options.

Can you relate to that? Is the Fear of Missing Out really how your life is lived? Is all this anxiety and chasing down better options what a full life is all about?

I think Jesus addressed this question in our lesson today. But His definition of living life to the fullest is different from ours. Two sisters, Mary and Martha, open their home to Jesus. Martha wants to be the good host, so she rushes around fixing the meal, setting the table, taking care of all the details. Now let’s be clear about this: Martha’s are vitally important in our lives. Some of us would be in trouble if we didn’t have a Martha to make sure things get done. Still, the hard work and attention to detail of the Martha’s of this world often get overlooked.

It’s really tough to be a good host, to take care of others’ needs, especially if no one seems to appreciate your efforts. Martha’s sister, Mary, wants to be a good host too, but she has a different way of approaching it. She sits at Jesus’ feet and listens to Him teach. When Martha complains to Jesus that her sister isn’t helping, Jesus says, Martha, Martha, you’re worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed, or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it won’t be taken away from her. Jesus defends Mary’s neglect of her hosting duties by saying, Please excuse Mary. She was with Me. Jesus, the Messiah. Please don’t misunderstand. He wasn’t trying to put more guilt on Martha’s shoulders. He’s trying to teach both sisters about the essence of life. Life is short. You only get one go-around. Don’t get lured into using up your energy on what doesn’t matter. Only one thing matters. It’s the better option. And it can’t be taken away from you. It’s the best cure for FOMO there is; sitting at the feet of Jesus.

Jesus is saying here, “Don’t miss out on the opportunity to know God.” Our society promotes backwards priorities. We promote achievement and consumption and nurturing of the self over our relationship with God. Yet God is our Creator. The Way, the Truth, the Life. What good is our life if it isn’t reflecting God’s glory and conforming to God’s plans?

All of Martha’s rushing around to serve Jesus was draining her. If she didn’t stop and just enjoy Jesus’ presence, then Jesus would end up getting the leftovers of her love and attention. Jesus is also saying, “Don’t miss out on the opportunity to give love and to receive love.” After all, this is the true essence of life.

Many of us were raised in a legalistic church. Where worship is our weekly obligation. We show up because it’s expected, because we believe it’ll make us a better person, because it’ll help us get into Heaven. But that’s the wrong way to approach worship. Worship is about enjoying God’s presence. It’s about giving and receiving love. Did you know that’s the purpose of worship? Did you expect love when you walked in here today? How sad it would be if you missed out on that opportunity.

Finally, Jesus is saying here, “Don’t miss out on the joy of living in this moment.” Because God made you for joy.

What if you knew somewhere in front of you was a moment that would change your life forever, a moment rich with potential, a moment filled with endless possibilities? What if you knew there was a moment coming, a divine moment, one where God would meet you in such a way that nothing would be the same again? What if there was a moment, a defining moment, where the choices you made determined the course and momentum of your future? How would you treat that moment? How would you prepare for it?

Every second is an opportunity for us to experience God. If we're afraid of missing out on something, this is the experience we should be afraid of missing. If we're going to spend our lives chasing something, this is what we should be chasing. God is in this moment. It’s God we don’t want to miss.

In the 1950s, a doctor was working the emergency room at a Kansas City hospital. He accidentally injected a tranquilizer too quickly into a patient, and the patient went into immediate cardiac arrest and died on the table.

The patient had absolutely no heartbeat. he was so upset over his mistake that he slammed his fist down on the man’s chest. Instantly, the patient revived. Imagine that, a surgeon so angry that he slams his fist down on a patient’s chest so hard that he brings him back to life. Now, that’s kind of funny.

But here’s what’s interesting. This doctor was so afraid of admitting his mistake that he kept this incident a secret for many years afterwards. Sadly, his fear kept him from seeing an amazing opportunity right before his eyes. If he had published his findings, he could’ve been instrumental in the development of cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR. Instead, it would be almost ten years later before CPR was developed as a standard treatment in cases of cardiac arrest. 

So, what are you doing in this very moment? Are you daydreaming about last night’s game or tomorrow’s work? Or are you seizing this very moment to pray, to focus on God, to look for the Creator of the Universe to speak to you and fill you with His love? You only get one go-around. Only one thing matters, it is the better, make that the best option, and it can’t be taken away from you. Or to put it in New Testament language, if you are suffering from FOMO, the fear of missing out, make sure you’re not missing out on the Kingdom of God, God’s presence and rule in your life. That’s the only moment that really counts.

Bethel Lutheran Church

32410 Willowick Drive
Willowick, OH 44095

P: (440) 943-5000

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