Our five-year-old son Wyatt recently saw a few commercials between episodes of Hannah Montana (yes, but that is for another time). Apparently, the ads had his full attention because a bit later, he asked, â€œDad, are my shoes Skechers?â€ He was disturbed when I told him no, and he quickly replied, â€œNext time we buy shoes, can I get Skechers? The commercial said they have the coolest styles.â€ Heâ€™s only five, and Madison Avenue already has their grubby paws on my son.
Since Super Size Me and the politics of globalization have made consumerism a whipping boy, we can fall into naÃ¯ve and shortsighted rhetoric around the issue. However, we are right to be gravely concerned about a society that is gorging itself to death (on burgers and fries as well as on oil and trees).
I do wonder, however, if we have recognized how deeply we (the church) are immersed in consumer addiction. Of course, the merry-go-round experience known as â€œchurch shoppingâ€ makes most pastorâ€™s top five list of things we hate about cultureâ€™s negative impact; but does our self-critique go any deeper than that? It should.
We all have our loyalties. We are loyal to a political affiliation, to our cultural heritage, to our Mac, to P.F. Changs, a few of us even to the Yankees. And then â€“ added to that mix â€“ some of us are loyal to Jesus as well. Jesus will have to squeeze in, but thereâ€™s enough loyalty to spread around.
The sickness here is that the whole enterprise begins and ends with us. We know what we want, and we use whoever or whatever will help us get it. If the democrats offer what we desire, fine. If the Republicans, okay. If a career or a spouse or a masterâ€™s degree helps, great. And when Jesus can grease the wheels, all the better. From this posture, we attach Godâ€™s name to whatever suits us. We may quote a verse or pray a prayer, but then we baptize our every whim and desire in the name of me. â€œAfter all,â€ as Skye Jethani reminds us, â€œin a consumer culture, the customer, not Christ, is King.â€
This is precisely the question we must ask: Who is king? Is Jesus Lord? Or are we? Often, our actions belie that we have made a lethal error. We believe we own the world. We believe the world and all its resources â€“ all our friendships, all of our time, all our economic power â€“ are ours to devour.
To this, Psalm 24:1 echoes a strong rebuke. â€œThe earth is the Lordâ€™s, and everything in it.â€ The earth is the Lordâ€™s, not ours. God owns every solitary speck on this mess of a planet (including us). There isnâ€™t a single molecule we can call our own. To borrow from the t-shirt, â€œThis is Godâ€™s world. Weâ€™re just living in it.â€
Certainly, God has given us His world to enjoy for our pleasure. But we are caretakers, not owners. Our first question is not: what do I want from this world? but rather, what does God want to do in His world? How does God want to heal in His world? How does God want to love broken people in His world? How does God want to speak life and truth and hope and justice into His world? And â€“ most poignant for you and me — how does God want to use us in His redemptive work? Gobbling and gorging and stuffing our face full of Godâ€™s goodness is simply a puny, wasted way to live.
peace / Winn