I just stepped out of my closet.
My head is hanging, because I thought it might be effective to poke fun at myself and my obvious obsession with shoes. I figured that, if I wanted to really make a strong argument for the case of the damage done by our excesses, I should begin at home with MY excess. And my excess (well, one of my excesses) is SHOES.
55 pairs of shoes. (Not counting slippers.)
And those are the in-season shoes; I didn’t include the box of footwear stored in my garage, waiting for summer weather to come before occupying space in my closet.
On this PINK Tuesday, I’d like to propose that we have been consumed by consumerism. This good idea has gotten the better of us – even those of us who purport to following Jesus of Nazareth, who almost certainly owned no more than the shoes He wore on His feet.
Not that we’ve had to be persuaded, mind you. Most of us have been willing participants in our society’s economy. The problem is, the control that is in our power to exercise over our buying decisions has been unwittingly assigned to the standards our society has set.
The standard of COOLNESS. The standard of TRENDINESS. The standard of a CULTURE whose mantra clearly is: MORE is MORE.
No one really NEEDS a 56th pair of shoes, and if the fact that I WANT a 56th pair of shoes is reason enough for me to lay my plastic money on the counter, then the ills of consumerism are further-reaching than we once thought. What I thought would be good fun – counting the kicks in my closet – has left me with a sour stomach and a headache, not to mention embarrassment about my apparent self-centeredness.
What makes me think that I could possibly NEED another pair of SHOES?
Why is it that I’m so susceptible to the suggestion that buying yet another pair of shoes is in my best interest – a good idea?
Three possibilities come to mind today, as I struggle with being a subject in the Kingdom of God and a resident in a society that doesn’t know when enough is enough…
SHOPPING as PAIN MANAGEMENT
Let me be the first to admit to having used shopping as anesthesia. I won’t even attempt to count the times when I have chosen to anesthesize my pain, stress and feelings of inadequacy by indulging in the comfort of consumerism. I’ve been amazed (clearly) by the power a new pair of shoes has over my temporary miseries. I can go for at least one good day beyond a shopping trip before the mileage gained from shopper’s euphoria returns to pre-purchase levels. When I’m feeling shallow, this can be all it takes to ease my pain. But today, my pain comes from all of those purchases that look pretty shallow now, in light of the real needs of the people around me.
‘WANT’ is the new ‘NEED’
Somewhere along the road, we’ve gotten things all mixed up. We’ve gotten SPOILED. With the resources we’ve been given, we have successfully elevated our perceived needs to a new level, so that when we WANT something passionately, we’ll use the word NEED to communicate our eagerness to have it.
I need a new Ipod, Mom.
I need seat covers for my car.
I need a vacation.
Mama needs a new pair of shoes… REALLY?
Few of us know genuine need, only ‘wants’ dressed up in ‘needs’ clothing. Scripture illustrates God’s feelings on the subject, by using the word ‘want’ (as a verb) only 8 times in its 66 books (and most of those references are in the ‘thou shalt NOT want’ vein). On the other hand, the Bible discusses ‘need’ at length in its 45+ uses of the word. Clearly, God is more interested in our NEED than in our WANT:
“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19
If a simple thing like our word choice can communicate to others where our true riches lie, then it’s time to pull back to the basics and call our NEEDS what (most of them) really are: WANTS. Nothing more.
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, but does that include my 56th pair of shoes? Those shoes are actually MINE, right? I work hard to earn every dollar that I spend, so when I swipe the money card and sign on the dotted touchpad, those shoes belong to ME! And yet, if pair #56 is God’s (not mine), how likely is it that He is as eager as I am to see those sweet shoes stored on my shelf, waiting for just the right occasion? Would He not prefer to see me share His shoes (or the money I would have spent on them) with someone who has a genuine need to survive (unlike me, whose need for shoes is classified under ‘want’ whether I choose to see it that way or not)?
In Confirmation class this week, we experienced a frenzied search of the scriptures for passages dealing with hospitality, compassion and giving. One student uncovered this verse, not knowing how great an impact it would have on little old me:
“He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.” Ephesians 4:28
If the purpose of my paycheck is to have something to share with those in NEED, well, my whole concept of what is MINE and what is GOD’S (and what is YOURS, for that matter) is all shook up. Ownership takes on new meaning if I subscribe to Paul’s suggestion that everything on earth is actually God’s. How, then, can I make the decision to buy pair #56 with a clear conscience, knowing that my heart is not beating as God’s is for the poor?
“All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.” Philippians 3:15
The path of consumerism threatens to consume me and you, and yet God has made it clear that He has a better way for us to live. It may sound silly, but I’m appalled at my own insensitivity to the condition of the people in the world all around me, in light of today’s shoe count and the resources those purchases represent. Suddenly, I’m wiggling in my seat and I’m VERY UNCOMFORTABLE. I don’t want to be like the rest of the world, whose “destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame… Their minds on earthly things.”
“But there’s far more to life for us. We’re citizens of high heaven!” Philippians 3:19-20
Time to start acting like it.
Time for me to grow up.
(Anyone with a size 6 foot in need of a pair of shoes?)