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Sunday, December 02, 2012

Honor God With Your Shopping!

Many times in the Old Testament the Israelites were taken to task for their worship of false gods.  Sometimes they were called idols.  And they were worshipped ... given roles of prominence in society and in the lives of the people.  Each and every time this happened, God was angry.  It was identified as sin.  And always it had dire consequences. 

Americans have had false gods for some time.  I'm not sure what they all are, but it's easy to identify some of them.  The first one that I noticed (or that God pointed out to me) was the god of sexuality.  Elements of our society worship sex.  They say that "sex sells," and so we seem to accept that it's okay.  It seems to have some purpose, so we seem to think it isn't that bad then.  But it leads to all kinds of sexual dysfunction.  (Don't worry, I won't discuss those kinds here.  That's another blog on its own!)

I personally think this god of sexuality is losing some of its grip on our society.  Oh sure, there are elements of our society that are deeply mired in pornography, swinging, prostitution, and other elements of sexual perversion.  But I notice that today's young people aren't nearly as impressed by it as they were even in my day.  I see TV shows and even advertisements that are using other things to sell besides sex.  At least it's fair to say that the god of sex has found some serious competition.

Another false god that I've recognized in America is the god of entertainment.  Seriously.  Americans like to be entertained.  And we justify it.  It seems to serve a purpose.  Back in the days of the Great Depression and the two major World Wars, Americans described going to the movies as an escape.  People thought that was okay, because heck, Americans needed and deserved an escape.  Right?

In more modern times, we seem to be using entertainment for everything.  I mean there doesn't seem to be a part of our lives where we escape to entertainment.  Instead, we live there!  We walk around with ear buds in our ears, listening to music.  We never turn off the radio, never turn off the cell phone.  In some homes people have several televisions - which never get turned off.  And even in a bad economy, we spend a ton of money going to the movies, attending concerts, buying songs, etc. 

But lately, I'm seeing another false god emerge in our society.  This one is equally as troubling as the others.  I call it the god of the lowest price.  I'm watching TV advertisements talking about getting "the best price."  We see people setting up tents outside of electronics retailers several days before the start of a big sale --- just so they can be sure they'll be the first in line to get "the best price."  They do this, of course, at the expense of their families.

Perhaps the most shameful worship of this god of the lowest price happened on Thanksgiving this year.  Our government has set aside a national holiday for all Americans to take time out to consider how incredibly blessed we are.  We're to turn to our one true God (however we happen to see Him), and thank Him for blessing us so.  But people are happy to set that aside, sacrificing that solemn occasion so they can chase the lowest price on more crap that they don't need.

Recently someone I know posted that he found the prices on-line to be lower than the prices at local retailers, so he was swearing off retail shopping because he must have the lowest price on everything he buys.  I was saddened to see several people who I know to be Christians weigh in, declaring their own allegiance to the god of the lowest price.  Why did this sadden me?  Because it's ungodly.  Put another way, Jesus would never go out of His way to insist on the lowest price all the time on everything.

In the Bible, 1 Timothy 5:18 says, "... The worker deserves his wages."  How should we understand this?  The worker deserves to be paid for his work.  This is true even if it's expensive to pay him.  Now before you decide to rise up against me, let me say that price gauging would be equally ungodly.  I'm not talking about letting someone take advantage of you.  But let's say that there is quite a margin between the lowest price and a fair price

What's godly is good stewardship of the financial resources that God gives us, minus the greed and selfishness, plus a fair price.  This allows us to meet our needs, and the other guy to make an honest living.  All in all, not a bad way to do business really.  I remember when I was in college and sold new cars.  People would walk into the dealership and brutally bludgeon us on price.  I even sold some cars by giving up some of my own commission.  Let me tell you, I didn't feel very good about those sales.  Instead I felt resentment and bitterness that the customer was so focused on the lowest price that they would obtain at my own personal expense. 

In Matthew 22:39 and Mark 12:31 Jesus told us to, "Love your neighbor as yourself."  What does this mean?  It means to love your neighbor as you would yourself like to be loved.  We've culturally taken those verses to write the oft quoted Golden Rule, which says simply that we should treat others as we ourselves would like to be treated.  So here's the question, how would you like to be abused, mistreated and discarded like some piece of trash for your hard work?  Just so someone could get the lowest price?

If you're a Christ-follower, and you're ready to get serious about walking the talk, then maybe you could start by tossing that god of the lowest price out to the curb this holiday season.  Keep being a good steward of the money that God gives you.  But I promise you, the Lord will be pleased when you start paying fair prices for goods and services that you buy.  He will be well pleased when your commerce empowers and provides for other people. 

You may never have considered this before, but when we set that false god aside, we can actually honor the one true God with our shopping!

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