black friday

How Will I Spend Black Friday?

On the fourth Thursday of every November, American’s celebrate Thanksgiving – a holiday that is about relationship as much as gluttony.  The next day, known as Black Friday, and the following Monday, known as Cyber Monday, American’s celebrate two additional ‘holidays’ that also balance relationship and consumption. I’ve shared with friends my discomfort with the Thanksgiving holiday.  I’ve shared that I’m concerned that we are celebrating the demise of the Native Americans and the rise of a culture of conquest.  But I’ve been assured that Thanksgiving is about family.  Ok, with a healthy dose of skepticism I can accept that notion. I’ve shared with anyone who will listen my discomfort with Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  To celebrate the birth of the savior of the world, we head out to the mall to purchase many, many, many (did I say many?) commercial products (presumably at a discount price).  The raw demonstration of consumption is awesome to witness.  But recently I read a blog post from Christianity Today that is helping me to rethink my concerns (http://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2013/october/fellow-christians-im-sorry-im-rich-really.html). In her post, “Fellow Christians: I’m Rich and I’m Sorry,” Jen Pollock Michel shares her views about stewardship from the point of view of someone who has been blessed by God with substantial financial wealth. Mrs. Michel shares that she is concerned when pastors live substantially above the typical financial means...

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ambiguous

How do I judge my Charity?

In a world with so much suffering, so much pain, and so much grief, it is easy to become overwhelmed. But some folks push through.  They push through the paralysis of panic, and look for ways to help their fellow man.  You’ve been tempted with this phenomena.  You may not realize it, but you have been.  How do I know?  Because you’ve seen the panhandler with outstretched fist asking for spare change.  You’ve seen the TV ad explaining how you can feed a child for less than the cost of a cup of coffee.  You’ve watched someone you know, or heard the story of a friend of a friend that was in need of money. This post is not about the reality of whether you ‘gave’ or not.  (Personally, I hope you were compelled to ‘give’). But rather this post is about the more metaphysical question of whether you ‘should give’ or not. Did you know that giving can hurt?  Have you ever read the stories of individuals and communities who suffered greatly because of good intentions, but misdirected actions?  If you haven’t, I’d suggest that you check out either: (1) When Helping Hurts by Corbett and Fikkert or (2) Toxic Charity by Lupton.  Both should be available from your neighborhood Christian bookstore. Surprised to hear that ‘Christian’ authors...

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Wal-Mart Food Drives and English Shirts

Recently, a Wal-Mart in Canton, Ohio held a food drive for its own employees. As a number of its sales associates were faced with the inability to afford a decent Thanksgiving meal, the store set up bins and tables imploring customers to donate some items on their behalf. Now, I think the knee jerk reaction here is to beat up on Wal-Mart for not paying a decent enough wage. While there is some truth in that accusation, it seems to be more of a symptom of the much larger problem. Real wages have been stagnant since the 1970s, while the price of goods and services has been steadily rising. Now, more and more workers are finding themselves in a situation where they cannot even afford the goods and services that they themselves produce and provide. It’s not an entirely new phenomenon, but it seems to be getting worse. C.S. Lewis remarked on a similar broken incident he had seen in his time; in the essay “Good Work and Good Works,” he states, “Within my lifetime in England money was (very properly) collected to buy shirts for some men who were out of work. The work they were out of was the manufacture of shirts.” In our own time, it seems we have progressed to where workers are unable to...

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Occupy Wall Street

Bring out your debt.

A group of Occupy Wall Street activists has bought almost $15m of Americans’ personal debt over the last year as part of the Rolling Jubilee project to help people pay off their outstanding credit. And so begins this article from the Guardian which highlights a completely out of the box and revolutionary style of thinking and action with the name of the project ‘Rolling Jubilee’ sure to set off some pleasant bells for those of us who know the story of the Old Testament just a little bit – an incredibly generous grace-filled  system that God created to cancel out debts every seven years and set people on a more level footing. By purchasing the debt at knockdown prices the group has managed to free $14,734,569.87 of personal debt, mainly medical debt, spending only $400,000. I have heard much mention of the suggestion that Israel never actually got around to practising Jubilee back then and so the question begs, will this work now? The group is specifically targeting medical debt as, ‘“No one should have to go into debt or bankruptcy because they get sick,” said Laura Hanna, an organiser with the group. Hanna said 62% of all personal bankruptcies have medical debt as a contributing factor.’ Take a moment to read the article and then we would love to hear...

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enough

Enough and no more?

I would just love to see if we can get some healthy discussion going around this topic of Faith and Money and Stuff and Things. Jesus, at one point has this to say: ‘But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.’ [Matthew 6.33] And people have quoted that hugely out of context for years in terms of trying to show how “all these things” might refer to mansions and boats and trips to Hawaii but if you read it in the context of the passage it is a part of, it becomes very clear that He was talking about basic needs then. If you seek God and His kingdom, then God will take care of your basic needs. I guess one question could be around basic needs because many of us today would include ‘Cellphone, car, personal computer and the internet’ as things we cannot do without. Would Jesus if He were walking around in the flesh today? Secondly, and this is the main question I would love to see some wrestling about [so please come and wrestle with us, but please play nice!] Jesus has this to say: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal....

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