Saturday, January 5, 2008

Value and Comfort -- Not Just Terms for WalMart

I think perhaps one of the things that has us confused about how our Christianity should play out is comfort. Somewhere along the line we have mixed up value and comfort. So, we think that what makes us comfortable reveals our value. In other words, "If God values me then He must want me to have a bigger house." or "If God really does care about me, then He'll get me a job I like better." Or, my personal favorite, "If God really does love me then certainly our main drain won't back up again." (That one came directly from my own mouth!)

Even the big societal and political fights that so many Christians come up with are based in our need for comfort. I mean, come on, would it hurt our country to be even a little less selfish and produce a little less trash and carbon emissions? How many Christians drive a 45 minute commute to church every Sunday, in a large SUV, without a thought to how living such a geographically spread out life effects other people? And, how many Christians (myself included) have been laughed at, pooh-poohed and worse, because we've said something about how American Christians should be thinking about the environment?

The true motivation behind the culture war (whether it's the environment or homosexual marriage or anything else), I have become convinced, is preserving a comfortable way of life. If our culture changes enough to show its true nature, then that will certainly be uncomfortable for us!

So, combine our desire for comfort with constant messages about how the individual is so important, then add to that all the secular messages about comfort and taking care of yourself, then put on that the beautiful stamp of the Christian publishing industry, and, voila, you've got a culture full of self indulgent believers. Myself included.

On the flip, side, though, God does value the individual. I think back to the time that my husband and I were scraping by to make ends meet, and God provided for us a rent-free apartment. In typical God fashion, the apartment was not anything ordinary. It was above a funeral home. However, we could live there in exchange for caring for the grounds and answering the phones.

On the way to the interview for the job, I imagined many things. I imagined the owner of the funeral home to be old, peculiar smelling and creepy. I imagined the apartment to be dirty, dark and small. In a real Hollywood flourish I pictured a dark kitchen with a light dangling from a wire over the table -- complete with scampering rodents.

What I found, though, was different. The owner was only a few years older than us, wasn't creepy and had no noticeable odors wafting from him. And the apartment was HUGE. It was over twice as big as our old apartment, and was a great place to live.

Why? Because God does take care of the individual. He does love and value each of us, and He does love to give good gifts (although it seems to me that we're pretty clueless about what good gifts are). There does come a time when it's right to stand up for ourselves and to request for ourselves. We do need that. Somewhere along the line, though, that became the focus.

Go back to the couple with the SUV and the 45 minute commute to church. What if they sold the SUV for a much cheaper vehicle and lived in the community where church resided? They could take the difference in money from their budget and invest that in missions, adoption, support to foster families, boy scouts, the salvation army -- any number of things. They could also use their church to impact their community. Living simply would mean less time in the car, which would be good for their family and the environment. Was the expensive car and commute a sin? Hardly, but was it really contributing to an eternal perspective?

I guess I do think everything must change.

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