On my piece entitled, “Fallen! Fallen”, I received two comments on Facebook that I felt merited a response. They were both well meant and perfectly intelligent but demonstrated what I see as a slight misunderstanding of my view of the world.
First, one friend said, “You don’t seem to be an out of control consumer…” This was a very kind comment and I would agree that to most people, my family wouldn’t appear to be out of control consumers. We don’t have Internet or television. We drive old cars and have no debt and keep our phones for years and years. To an average American, this probably appears pretty restrained. In fact, I will even venture to say I am not an “out of control” consumer, but this is no longer the standard to which I hold myself. In fact, it’s not a question I ask at all any more and my response to the second comment will hopefully clarify why this is.
The second response was the quintessential response of the American Dream. “I don’t force anyone to live in poverty and oppression;rather, I provide work for those who supply products to me and I travel to countries where my money is spent locally. A transatlsntic flight keeps hundreds of otherwise hungry people employed..”
This is undeniably true. By purchasing cheap clothes made in a sweatshop in Malaysia, I am probably giving near slavery wages to people who otherwise would not have a job. They will fall apart in three months and I’ll buy new ones. So in effect I am telling the companies that employ these people, “I would rather pay $10 less than have you pay people a wage that allows them to live with dignity. I would rather eat cheap food than tasty, healthy food. I would rather have lots of stuff for very little money than own few high quality things made by people who are well taken care of.”
But, as I’ve stated before, I don’t have the right to ask these questions at all. My money, my income, my property, my possessions: these are all gifts. I have no right, as a child under my parents’ authority, to tell them how to spend their money. When they would give me $20 for gas, I had no right to spend that on a movie with friends. Now I had good, loving parents, who occasionally gave me money to spend on movies with friends. They understood that investing in people by spending time with them was a good investment, and were willing to give me money for that. But they didn’t just throw money at me and tell me to do whatever I wanted.
And if our money, in this fabulously wealth nation that we live in, is a gift for a Heavenly Father, then we too have no right to spend it irresponsibly. Money is a gift to be used in a way that expresses the value of what really matters. And it turns out that Jesus died for people. He didn’t die for my expensive things or my plethora of inexpensive clothes or that I might live a comfortable, lazy, selfish lifestyle here on earth. He died for people. And then He told me to take up my cross and follow Him. To die to myself daily. And to lay down my life for others. Which sometimes means paying more for things so that the people who make them or the circumstances in which things are produced, could generally be better. I am to lay down my life for my literal neighbor by making time for them when they need help, and to lay down my little luxuries for the people in Cambodia whose quality of life is vastly improved by another $5/day.
Instead of deciding if I’m a consumerist or how I stack up compared to others, or simply patting on my back because at least I am providing them with a source of income, however small, I am merely to say, “Does my use of my resources reflect the way Christ laid His life down for me and for them?”
The answer to that question is far too often, “No. Not really.” But I am walking in heaven and every day I get closer to the person God made me to be. And as I get closer, the answer becomes more often, “Yes. This is for Jesus and the people He loves.”