Buy More Stuff: A Sabbath Meditation

As I said in the first “Buy More Stuff” post, our souls are at risk, and most of us don’t even know it. Or, even worse, some of us do know it, and we don’t do anything about it. It can seem too overwhelming. (I’m guilty of falling into this camp more often than not, trust me.)

So with that build-up, here’s a Sabbath meditation for today:

Christians have no problem helping the poor. But question whether our “blessings” are borne on the backs of the poor and things get messy. The call to “Make poverty history” needs a partner: “Make affluence history.”

Years ago, some folks from our communities attended a rally against overseas sweatshops. They had not invited the typical rally speakers–lawyers, activists, and academics. Instead, they brought the kids themselves from the sweatshops to speak. We listened as a child from Indonesia pointed to the giant scar on his face. “I got this scar when my master lashed me for not working hard enough. When it began to bleed, he did not want me to stop working or to ruin the cloth in front of me, so he took a lighter and burned it shut. I got this making stuff for you.” We were suddenly consumed by the overwhelming reality of the suffering body of Christ. Jesus now bore not just the marks from the nails and scars from the thorns but a gash down his face, for when we have done it to the “least of these,” we have done it to Christ himself. How could we possibly follow Jesus and buy anything from that master? The statistics had a face. Poverty became personal. And that messes with you.

. . . This isn’t simply about fairly paying [workers]: it’s about the way our world’s economy siphons wealth from the poor up to the rich. And we are all part of it.

— Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw, Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), p. 189

I have a feeling I am not done with this topic. The next few Sabbaths, probably at least through Advent, I’m going to offer meditations about consumerism. It seems appropriate, since though Thanksgiving isn’t even here yet, we’re already gearing up for Christmas. And the way we as Americans (dare I say American Christians?) tend to celebrate Christmas is one symptom of our broken economy… and our broken communities.


2 comments on “Buy More Stuff: A Sabbath Meditation

  1. Stephen says:

    “The statistics had a face. Poverty became personal. And that messes with you.”

    These three simple sentences speak volumes. So often statistics are tossed at us by some talking head on TV or the radio, but they are only that, a statistic. Not a face, not a person, it is extremely impersonal. We don’t like when poverty becomes personal. We don’t like when we come face to face with poverty. We don’t make eye contact with homeless man on the corner or the lady pushing the shopping cart. We think if we ignore it, it will go away. We just drive by in our comfortable SUV.

    • elizabeth says:

      …Or our little black Focuses.

      Just after I drove by a homeless man this week who was holding a sign announcing that he was hungry and that he was a veteran, I heard on the radio (literally within about 15 seconds of passing him) a commercial for Applebees announcing a free meal for veterans. At the time, I thought it meant on that particular day (it actually meant for the following day, on Veterans Day proper, of course), and I wondered if I should turn the car around and pick this guy up. I didn’t because I convinced myself it was just too inconvenient. There wasn’t an Applebees nearby, for one thing, and J was waiting on me for dinner before he had to head out to choir. But within 50 yards was Waffle House. Certainly I could buy this guy a meal at Waffle House with no skin off my back. But still, I didn’t stop. Inconvenient? Yep. Selfish? Absolutely.

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