Spiritual Formation

Consumerism and middle ground

1678496121_7720501fcbOn a recent post discussing multiracial dolls, the discussion turned toward consumerism and what we teach our children through our purchases for them. In light of the coming holiday season, it feels like a particularly pertinent issue. Kathy Khang’s comment got me thinking:

“I’m not sure where the middle is. When you find it, please blog about its whereabouts. The very fact that we here in America can sit around and discuss the moral pros and cons of buying a doll speaks volumes, never mind the actual cost of said hypothetical doll purchase. It is not an easy call. Just because I choose not to buy the $100 doll or coat or whatever doesn’t necessarily mean I’ve taught my children anything. I’ve found explaining our choices – big and small – in ways that connect with them has gone a long way. And there is the delicate balance of need and want, again a privilege for some of us.

Some tough questions, particularly for those of us living in middle class America! Now, in the spirit of total disclosure, I admit that I have absolutely no idea where the middle is. One of the great advantages of being in an intercultural marriage is that I have daily opportunity to discuss these questions with someone who has had intimate views of life in the developing world. Whereas I may view a $100 doll as a wise investment, to be cherished and taken care of for life, my husband can see it as completely unnecessary because some children never even have toys. For us, the middle is still nebulous, but we work to find a middle ground. This year, it’s a $25 knock-off (probably made in a sweatshop…can you ever win?) doll.

Guided both by Scripture and some wise Christians, I’m learning to let some overarching questions guide my purchasing choices in an attempt to continually pursue this spot for our family. This list is just a start and by no means conclusive…

  • Is my primary focus on the value of relationship (with Christ, myself, and others)?

“Simplicity is meaningful only inasmuch as it is grounded in love, authenic relationships, and interdependence. Redistribution then springs naturally out of our rebirth, from a vision of family that is larger than biology or nationalism.” – Shane Claibourne, The Irresistible Revolution

“Love your neighbor as yourself.” – Jesus, Mark 12

  • Do I have a proper view of myself?

“It is the best joke there is, that we are here, and fools – that we are sown into time like so much corn, that we are souls sprinkled at random like salt into time and dissolved here, spread into matter, connected by cells right down to our feet, and those feet likely to fell us over a tree root or jam us on a stone. The joke part is that we forget it. Give the mind two seconds alone, and it thinks it’s Pythagoras.” – Annie Dillard

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.

Phillipians 2:5-7

  • Do I know the poor?

“The great tragedy in the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor but that rich Christians do not know the poor.” –Shane Claiborne

  • Am I thinking globally?

When comparing myself to my American counterparts, I can take a decent amount of pride in our level of simplicity. My house can always be smaller than someone else’s, my clothing more simple, my purchases less. However, when comparing myself to the world at large, I am in the top 1% of the wealthiest people on earth. In this sense, most everything I own is bigger and more.

“The Earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” Psalm 42:1

What kind of insight do others have regarding these decisions? How do we use our money faithfully in light of global reality? What are you learning about a ‘middle ground’?


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