Thursday, December 2, 2010

God and Money

I think the last straw was hearing a church carillon playing “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire.” Why is it that even in the church, where the birth of Christ should be proclaimed, we have gotten caught up in the excesses of our culture at this time of year? I am not advocating that we have no celebration, but shouldn’t our first priority as Christians be to proclaim the birth of Christ, who came to earth, wholly human and wholly divine, to give himself for us?

I mentioned in an earlier post that I am facilitating a discussion of The Advent Conspiracy. The authors suggest that many Christians believe it is possible to worship God and money. They point out that the Israelites tried this when they first settled the Promised Land. They saw the gods that their neighbors worshipped and figured what would it hurt to offer some sacrifices to Baal as well as to God. Might as well cover all your bases, right? While it sounds good in theory, God was not pleased.

I wonder if he is pleased with us and our rampant consumerism. Maybe we aren’t offering sacrifices to Baal, but I bet there were more church members out at 4:00 a.m. on Black Friday standing in line to get a bargain than there are at any Easter Sunrise Service!

And speaking of bargains, have you ever thought about what those bargains cost the producers of what we purchase? We are so immersed in our consumer culture that I’m afraid we are blind to what we have become and to the way our lifestyles affect others. Do our hearts break when we get dressed in the morning? I don’t think about how each piece of clothing was made by people who may be laboring in horrific conditions so I can buy at bargain prices. I spend more on an evening’s entertainment (I’m talking about a movie, not a Broadway show) than others have to live on for a month or more.

Imagine what could be done for others with what we spend on vacations. And we act as if we are entitled to do it. “It’s my money after all. I earned it. I can spend it any way I want.” We forget that it is all a gift from God; none of it really belongs to us. Do we have the right to do whatever we want with our money and call ourselves Christians while others are starving to death, often in the very places we visit on our cruise ships and airplanes.

I am feeling the tug between what the culture says is okay and what Christ teaches. Maybe these thoughts are extreme. Maybe I’m an extremist for voicing them. But God is pretty extreme. I can’t think of much that is more extreme than sending Jesus to earth as a helpless baby, who then grew up and did something really extreme—dying for my sin on a cross.

If it is extreme to put the needs of others ahead of my wants, as Jesus did, then maybe we should all be extremists.

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