Your frugal friend drives a hand-me-down Honda, quietly filling his investment account with low-cost index funds.
That mid-century modern piece he refurbished from Goodwill lights up the living room, proving that style and low-cost aren’t mutually exclusive.
At this rate, he could retire by 40.
Repurposing used things saves money, empowering you to consider new options: To take a lower paying job you love, focus more time on creating art or even volunteer full-time. Buying used, with an eye for quality, is great stewardship.
But this kind of savvy serves a greater purpose than pre-bankrolling a future, comfortable stage of life. As you form simple habits of buying secondhand, you create new liturgies for your everyday life. Over time, these daily rhythms actually form and remake two important elements of the world: your heart and the systems you live in.
If you’re like me, you make purchases almost every day. Buying certain things and refusing others becomes a habit—a liturgy in which you practice and reinforce what is valuable and lovable. And, increasingly, spiritual leaders agree: You become what you love.
As a person of faith, you are more than just a believing being—more than a brain on a stick. You are a whole person, created and wired to love and worship. Patterns of worship in Scripture reveal that every person is worshipping one or more gods; then, is being changed into the image of the god(s) worshipped. Naturally, we as human beings then form societies in this image.
If we love and worship the god of consumption, we will be transformed into self-centered materialists, creating cultures and societies in our hedonist image. When we love and worship Jesus—the humble King whose bed was used feeding trough—we create a culture that celebrates the things of His kingdom: restored relationships, economic justice, quality of life, humility.
By redeeming secondhand property, we train our hearts toward contentment, wedding our identity to the humble way of Jesus. By practicing liturgies that resist the idolatry of consumption, our hearts are transformed day by day into what we love—which cannot be the abundance of material possessions, but the treasures of the kingdom of Jesus.
In an upwardly mobile culture, our hearts adore a downwardly mobile God.
If you’re like me, you might also feel slightly conflicted in daily purchases. To buy almost any material good today is to participate in a global economic system that is driven primarily by greed.
Let’s be honest: Material progress has become a global god, now worshipped by most every culture.
As human beings increasingly devote themselves to this end, globalization has created an interlinked network of societies cooperating for mutual consumption and economic mobility. Because sin has corrupted all of the systems we live in, we are all, to some extent, complicit in these broken structures.
By redeeming secondhand property, you challenge this opaque, profit-centered system that longs for our loyalty.
Buying used is one way God’s people question and resist the default global economic system that seeks gain by whatever means—even dehumanizing people made in His image. Along with this potential exploitation, these systems subtly push their patterns of consumption upon us, seeking our allegiance and worship.
Each year, billions of dollars are spent on marketing messages that ensure we unite our self-image to the latest and greatest products on the market.
Throughout history, economic non-cooperation has been a harbinger for systemic change. When we redeem and enjoy used goods the system calls passé, we push back against these liturgies of corporate greed. We recalibrate our identities, remembering who we are.
These new liturgical practices of humility cry out Christ’s warning of resistance, not only to our hearts, but to the economic system itself: “Watch out for greed! Life does not consist in an abundance of possessions. Seek the treasure of the kingdom that never runs out. (Luke 12:15)”
The next time you buy used, repurpose or forgo—remember, it isn’t just to build up your bank account for a later day (though that can be great, too). In your daily economic liturgies, your heart is being formed. You are becoming what you love. And, global systems are being questioned. Perhaps, even over time, re-created.
This is the beautiful paradox of Christian practice: in reclaiming what is old and worn out, we move closer to God’s new creation.
J. Mark Bowers writes and trains for the Chalmers Center, a church equipping organization focused on breaking the spiritual, social, and material bonds of poverty. Having lived and journeyed extensively in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, he is also the creator of Profit & Pilgrimage, a movement of people who travel and invest with compassion. When the screens are powered down, Mark builds relationships and runs a housing business for immigrant families in East Lake—an under-resourced neighborhood where his own family lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA.