Monday, December 17

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Experiencing God as Joy: Consumerism
Scripture: Luke 3:10-11

“And the crowds asked him, ‘What then should we do?’ In reply he said to them, ‘Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.’”

The above passage from Luke is John the Baptist’s response to the people of Jordan when asked what they should do to prepare for the coming of Jesus. This is shortly after he refers to the proselytized as a “brood of vipers.” The plain language of the text implies that it should be obvious. If you have more than enough, share with those who do not. History has shown that generosity turns out to be more of a hit or miss proposition.

As Americans, we have an interesting relationship with our wealth. We live in arguably the richest country the world has ever known. At this point, consumerism seems to be part of our national identity, particularly during the Advent season. America regularly tops the rankings of a country’s percentage of GDP spent on consumer goods. We also top the list of countries ranked by their giving when compared to GDP, coming in second to Myanmar in a recent BBC study. What rankings like these don’t look at are things like a society’s access to health care, education, upward mobility, or justice. When it comes to these rankings, we don’t fare quite as well.

John spoke in very plain and specific terms. If you have a coat to give, give it. We as Americans do well with that. The issue is that if you keep reading the New Testament, you might be left with a sense that Jesus calls us to a higher standard of generosity, a systemic generosity, even justice. This Advent season, as we give as John calls us to do in Luke, let’s also consider how we might contribute to systems that give access to the basic needs in life that might prevent that person from being without food and clothing in the first place.

God of love and light, help us to see your face in all of your people. In a land of such wealth and privilege, help us to leverage your gifts in ways that endow all, not just a select few. Amen.

~Jason Malmberg