In general I’ve struggled with buying things since I’ve been back. I’ve settled into a house and needed to buy things for it. Most of that has been done at Goodwill. But one day at Marshall’s I found a rug (an, apparently, notoriously not-cheap item) on clearance. And for it a rug it was darn cheap. I decided to buy it, telling myself I could always return it. For 3.5 weeks I left it in the back of the car, hemming and hawing over whether or not I should keep it. Am I being wasteful? A bad steward of money? Sometimes I literally feel sick over spending money. So I’m like, is justified because I’m catching up after not really buying stuff while I lived in Africa? Am I being wise with money? It’s ok to enjoy it a little bit…but when does it become excessive? Where is that line? Am I being in love with the world?
I don’t want my life to consist of the abundance of my possessions (Luke 12:15) I want my worth to be in Christ and relationships with others. I don’t think that possessions are inherently evil…but they can be. I can give them power over me.
I feel like what I spend my money on is a reflection of who I am. What does my spending say about me? Do I like what it says? I want my money, firstly, to help the people God has commanded me to help. I want to use it to feed hungry people and clothe orphans and help people who are struggling. I want to support local farmers. People who are responsible and respectful of the environment. Same for clothes and other things. I want my money to support products and companies that pay fair wages, don’t employ children, care about the environment and don’t just care about the bottom line. There aren’t many of these companies, at least not many that are affordable on my budget, which is why I buy most of my stuff second-hand. It keeps things out of landfills and usually the profits give back to the community. I can get on board with that.
But I still own more than I need. The things I own are still in excess. I love the idea of minimalism…but a minimalist I am not. I still have my choice of several different foods for breakfast in the morning off of any number of plates to sit and eat on comfortable furniture in a temperate house, while reading any of the hundreds of books at my disposal. I’ll spend too long getting dressed because I have so many choices of what to wear. Which accessories? Which of my many pairs of shoes look best? And even though I probably own less stuff than the average American 26 year old I absolutely have abundantly more than I need. I am thankful for my rich blessings…and I am also guilty.
I look at the boys I worked with in North Africa. How is it possible I can enjoy so many things that they can’t? How is it possible that I can enjoy so much beauty and goodness here and enjoy it so freely when people I love on the other side of the world are suffering? How is it possible that I can enjoy these things and they can’t? Why do I get the blessed gift of being born in a family that loves me in a free country bursting at the seams with opportunity? How can there be such a vast difference in your life just because of where you were born and the circumstances you were born under? Why are some people born in times of war and others in times of peace? I have a responsibility to use what I have been given to make other peoples lives better. And while I get distracted by the glitter and false promises this world has to offer sometimes, I hope that as I get older I can continue to learn what it means to keep myself “unstained from the world.” (James 1:27)
“People who are free are also free to look away and their willingness to do so never fails to astound me.” Malika Oufkir