By Mark A. Taylor
The topic was consumerism, and I was ready with my questions for the three CHRISTIAN STANDARD writers who formed the panel at our Beyond the Standard BlogTalkRadio program last month.
“Consumerism is a byproduct of bad thinking,” said E.G. “Jay” Link, head of Stewardship Ministries based in Mooresville, Indiana. “You can’t resolve the big issues of life simply by resolving to spend less. The basic issue is: I own nothing.”
Link set the tone for our discussion early in the program: “God owns everything. Christians acknowledge that, but we act as if we own what we own,” he said. “We are simply couriers for the good that God wants to give. I am merely a steward, responsible to use what I have for his purposes.”
Ryan Connor, pastor with Amity (Oregon) Christian Church, reminded us that wealth equals power for many. “But wealth is a blessing to be used for greater purposes than our power,” he said. “The Benedictines didn’t have a hang-up about wealth; they understood it to be a blessing,” he added. “We should think of ourselves as inheritors of a blessing so that we, too, can be a blessing.”
Janet McMahon, community life director for Restore Christian Church in Kansas City, Missouri, took that lesson to heart in 2013. She lived out a yearlong experiment to buy nothing for herself, and the money she saved freed her to bless others in ways she couldn’t have planned. “I didn’t realize how caught up in the culture I can be, with all the e-mails and magazines and ads,” she said. But when the response to each invitation to spend and buy was automatically no, “there was a real sense of freedom for me,” she said. “I didn’t have to measure up, be a certain way, do a certain thing, look a certain way.”
“One of the most pervasive lies is that having more stuff will make you happy,” Link said. “But the biblical message is that the more you give, the happier you’ll be.”
“I’ve seen so many people crushed by debt after spending money on things they don’t need,” Connor observed. They pursue “the lie that consumption will bring satisfaction.”
These three Christian leaders offered perspectives on spending to help each of us develop new ways of thinking about our material abundance. “I must live with open hands so that anything I have or have saved is available for God to use,” Link said. That’s a challenge I’m still pondering, even after leading and then listening again to this episode of Beyond the Standard.
This hourlong discussion offered far more insights than I can review here. Listen for yourself and share this program with friends by logging on here. Meanwhile, the next Beyond the Standard program will be Thursday, February 20, at 11 a.m. Eastern time. James Estep and Teresa Welch will discuss biblical illiteracy and answer your questions about a problem your church can help to solve.