So lately I've been thinking a lot about the world we live in. Our church staff talked yesterday about being "good managers" of "God's economy", and it got me thinking about what that really means. Does it mean that we rearrange our lives so that we can have enough money to be generous financial givers? Does it mean that we change our priorities so that we can send our kids to college and retire with financial security? Does it mean that we quit buying cars with borrowed money and pay our houses off in 15 years? Just what does it mean to manage what God's given us with wisdom and responsibility?
Well, as I sit in a Starbucks writing this, I'm looking out the window at our world. There's a lot to look at. Cars, convenience stores, shops, auto repair garages, laundry and dry cleaning services, colleges, hospitals, restaraunts, churches, Radio Shack's, and the list goes on, and on... and on... and on (this could go on forever...). And that's just from my window view at the corner of Gaston and N. Haskell in Dallas! We live in a culture of goods and services, and quite frankly, we have more goods than is good, and more services than we can possibly service.
Our culture used to make stuff because we needed it, but those days are over. Now we make stuff for the same reason dogs lick themselves: because we can. There was no need to advertise stuff in the old days because there was no need to be "sold" on something you already knew you needed. Now we can't escape advertising. It's on the sides of busses, it's kalidescope frames the freeway, and a pregnant lady recently sold her belly on ebay as advertising space (the winning bid was $1,000). Anybody ever wonder why we're so marketing driven?
The reason is that we make more stuff than we need these days, and in order to sell all that un-needed crap we have to convince people that they need it. Problem is after we've convinced them, we have to come up with a way for them to pay for it. Enter the credit card. After all, you can buy anything on credit! So now we find ourselves as the richest country in the history of the world, but we're also more in debt than ever!! Nowadays, over 50% of US families routinely spend more each year than they earn, and roughly 70% of US families live paycheck to paycheck. Shameful considering the fact that millions of people throughout the world are living on beans and rice while we struggle to payoff our mini-van.
I'm as guilty as the rest of us. We've made our fair share of ridiculuous financial mistakes, and I've never been motivated to get a handle on it. I think it's because I've been coming at it from the wrong standpoint. I've been looking at it from a practical point of view. If I get a handle on my money, I'll be able to retire with securty, pay for my kids college and give more generously. Those are all good things, but they can't be the primary motivation for a change. This change has to be radical. It's about a lot more than money. This thing is about a revolution in the way that we view all of life.
It's time to get back to our needs and not our wants. It's time to view our finances as a luxury and not a right. It's time for us to view money as part of the same spiritual perspective in which we view worship and discipleship. It's time for us to downsize. Now, that's a radical shift, and I'm motivated by it.
It's time for me to leave Starbucks. I'm getting some weird vibes from the young corporates in this place who seem to be able to sense what I'm writing about. I have this way of making people in business attire who order skinny white chocolate fraps very nervous. I guess I'll hop in my 1988 Buick Park Avenue and make my way home. I'm going to keep looking at the world as I head that way in hopes that I may someday see less and not more.