Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Less shopping

I've been preparing to preach the first couple of chapters of Micah at CCC, to kick off our advent series.  One of the things that is unavoidable in the chapters is that amongst the sins for which Samaria and Jerusalem are condemned - which include idolatry and a rejection of God's word - is the sin of greed, and oppression through greed.
They covet fields and seize them,
and houses, and take them away;
they oppress a man and his house,
a man and his inheritance.
Of course this goes together with the rejection of the true God and his word.  Either you trust him, or you seek to establish your own security.  One way to go about that is to ensure that you have more of everything than anyone else.  Then again, if your delight is not in him, you will find it in your stuff, and because stuff is not actually that satisfying you will need to be constantly topping up your stuff.

It's really easy to condemn our society along these lines.  We have built an economic system which relies on persuading us that we need more things, and even that we ought to be prepared to go into debt to get them.  In the US, there is the bizarre phenomenon of a day dedicated to giving thanks for what people have and enjoy being followed directly by a day dedicated to getting more stuff; in the UK, we are cursed by having retailers try to persuade us that 'Black Friday' is an important shopping day, even though we don't even mark Thanksgiving!

But one of the striking things about Micah is that complaints which one might expect to find directed at 'the world' are in fact directed at God's people.  I think that's how verses 2 through 5 of chapter 1 work.  Verses 2 to 4 use characteristic imagery to describe God coming in judgement from his temple - no doubt this would get a cheer for Micah's audience in Judah.  But then in verse 5 it emerges that it is Israel and Judah's sin which has drawn forth the judgement.  They are the targets of God's wrath.

So we in the church have to ask ourselves: how have we been different?  How, in particular, have we resisted consumerism?  It strikes me that this needs to be more than just standing against the particular excesses of acquisitiveness.  We are not, on the whole, ostentatious.  Just comfortable.  But is 'just comfortable' sufficiently different to really witness to the world that our delight and trust are in God and not in stuff?  If we were in the presence of alcoholics, we might restrict ourselves from an otherwise totally legitimate drink, as a witness and as a help.  I wonder if, given our society of shop-aholics, if we ought not to restrict even legitimate purchases.

This is a rebuke for me.  I am not by nature a thrifty person.  But I am going to try to do less shopping - especially on Friday...

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