I am a consumer. I am told that every day. It’s my identity given to me. It means I am defined as one who consumes. Who uses. Who devours.
So I am defined as one who spends, who is not satisfied, who is always hungry for more.
I literally buy into this idea.
Therefore, I go into debt. I pretty much have to, to survive. I don’t have $100,000 lying around for a house, let alone the cash for a car. Some of us don’t have the cash lying around just for normal bills like electricity and water. On the cards it goes, and sign the dotted line.
I often feel we are defined as worth only what we can spend. Worthy people are those who have steady income, some savings, and therefore also get prime rates, their checks cashed for free, and are offered more and more loan money. Unworthy are all of us under employed, unemployed, or living hand to mouth and are rewarded with high interest rates, are charged to cash checks, and get stuck in pawn and payday loan schemes.
Can you spend a lot? Then you may eat healthy food, and wear clothes that fit, and sleep in secure neighborhoods. Can you spend a little? Then you may eat only highly processed food, wear ill-fitting clothes, and sleep in dangerous neighborhoods… maybe in a house, maybe just under a bridge. If you can spend a lot – you’re worth more – and preventative health care is available. If you can’t spend a lot… prepare for crowded ER visits.
My worth is so calculated, that I actually get a “credit score” to tell me what my value is. Low value? No company wants to deal with me. High value? Everyone wants to deal with me.
I am a consumer and I am told it is my patriotic duty to consume. If I save, I’m told I’m hurting the economy. After 9-11, there honestly were billboards telling people these very words. Eat Out – Support America.
But guilt over my “duty” to my country isn’t the only way I am trapped in my definition of an ever unhappy, insatiable, consumer.
My world also tells me the source of my problems are what I have chosen to consume. Consuming alone isn’t enough. I have to consume continuously to keep up with the Joneses and to prevent my life from being a catastrophe.
For instance, I know my husband and children are arguing with me because I am a bad cook. Luckily, I can order out. Advertisements promise me that if I just order out dinner, all my problems are solved.
Want a happy family? Easy. Throw money at them.
The world also tells me my friends secretly hate me and think I am fat. If I lose weight with name-brand shakes, I’ll be popular. Not only will I get friends – I’ll get my dream guy, dream job, dream house, and dream life – all because I shed 20 lbs in 2 weeks! Send in the cash.
What’s more, my world tells me if I don’t splurge for the highest cost cat food, I am a terrible pet owner. My cat is slowing down in her old age because once, when she was 2 year old, I bought the second most expensive cat food. If I just got the higher brand her whole life… she’d never age.
So says the world, if I really want a vacation in Hawaii where no one is around for miles and I get all the vistas to myself with perfect weather… all I need is a new car.
I also know: every man loves powertools, ties, and sports cars.
Every woman loves fashion, home goods, and bath supplies.
Every boy wears blue.
Every girl wears pink.
The best gifts are bought, new, from the store, never regifted, never handmade, never received from thriftstores or yardsales, and a gift or theme or purchase is needed for some holiday every month.
Christmas, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day, Saint Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, President’s Day, Labor Day, Independence Day – all of them turned into a commercial masterpiece designed to cater to the consumer.
And we are those consumers. So the world, the culture of the United States of America, tells us. And we’re told to make fun of those who cannot, or will not, participate in the consumer culture. Just as in the story we read today in our kid’s chat, (My Princess Boy) we get trained to laugh and point at the different person.
I think we’d laugh and point at Jesus.
For who was Jesus? Who is Jesus?
When Jesus found sellers and consumers in the temple, he took a whip, ran them out, and tipped over the tables.
Jesus didn’t ask Tabitha’s parents how much their daughter was worth to them – were they willing to give their house to Jesus? He just went and healed her. Jesus didn’t ask to see cash before he healed anyone.
Instead, Jesus actively went and told people – you are precious. Beyond worth. You are a beloved child of God.
He also told us that “the heavens are witnesses of the people and things that we imprison and the people and things that we set free.” (Rev. Dr. Mitzi J. Smith) When we reduce others to their pocketbooks, or credit scores, or purchasing power, or conformity to world norms… and when we fall into those traps… heaven knows and is also impacted.
Scripture tells us over and over again – when you throw a feast, invite those who can’t afford a feast. When you find you have time, knowledge, or money– share.
Jesus told his disciples not to tell others Jesus is the Messiah. Don’t preach with words. Preach with your lives. Tell people who Jesus is by the way you live your life. Fill the world and heaven with the love of Christ by living lives of love.
When the world pressures you to be a consumer, live your life as a child of God.
When the world promises products to make all your woes go away – whether in the form of lotto tickets, new vitamins, gadgets, or diets – know the world is lying. And live your life as a living sacrifice.
At one time, food and drink were burned on an altar for God as an act of worship. Paul is referencing this moment. He tells us – be a living sacrifice. Let your life, your daily life, be an act of worship.
A living sacrifice means being aware we are defined by who made us: God. Who is remaking us: God. Who redeems us: God.
It means being aware that in the beginning, God made our bodies and called them good.
Made our minds and called them good.
Made our souls and called them good.
God calls us very good… each of us, as individuals, with different talents, each very good… and not a one better or worse than another.
Flesh and blood — our normal minds – won’t understand. But wisdom from God understands. The world won’t understand we belong to the Messiah. But we understand.
For Paul, worship is full-bodied. It happens in community as we live out our faith by serving one another to build up the body of Christ. The quality of our worship is not measured by what happens on only Sunday mornings, but by what happens when we are together Monday through Saturday.
A living sacrifice is a living a Godly life that resists the world’s pressures to think in dollars and cents, stereotypes and static roles. Resists the world’s pressure to dehumanize and demean others. A living sacrifice accepts others just as they are, and welcomes each part of the body as a valued member of the community.
A living sacrifice means living a life of worship – one focused on God and others, rather than items and appearances. One that knows these good bodies God has gifted us with are meant to be used assisting and loving one another.
In no way will our world suddenly stop calling and considering you and I consumers. We are numbers, dollars and cents, to many others.
But we ought never to view each other as such.
Rather, may we strive to always see each other as the diverse children of God.