One of the comments that inspired me to talk about faith here was in reference to Christ's instruction to "love your neighbour as you love yourself"
Snow said "others seemed TO believe, yet they made no discernible effort to live up to Christ’s standard. So, how do YOU do it? You pay $30 for a cellphone, but even that small expenditure COULD be used to buy shoes for some kid in Tibet. I’m not putting YOU down; I’m putting the standard down."
One of my greatest disappointments with the Christians I know (and I do get a bit judgy about it) is that as consumers they are not discernibly different to the majority of people, in fact sometimes i think they are worse.
I see so little awareness of ethical consumption, whether we are looking at sustainable agricultural practice, sustainable energy use, healthy eating (surely a mark of respect for the body God created for us) or the bonded labour used to produce all of our gorgeous, unsustainable, ego boosting gadgets.
**the first of what i am sure will be many disclaimers**
I know that there are Christians who care about this stuff but in my neck of the woods i don't see them.
So, how do I love others with respect to buying shoes for Nepalese kids versus luxuries for myself?
Inherent in my faith is the idea that I was placed where I am, in the time that I am living, with all of the details of my life (gifts and talents, connections, interests, resources etc) to be used in this time and place. If I accept that I was born in the 1970s to a white, middle class, Australian family, unless I am knowingly and deliberately acting outside of what I know of Gods plan, then my privileged station in life is what was planned for me.
That is not to say that I can be self gratifying but it is to say that a cell phone is pretty much essential to function in the society I have been placed in and it is essential for the work I do. The way I think about it is that God probably expects me to have a cell phone but he probably expects me to have a basic one and then put the several hundred dollars I save on a phone towards something like shoes for kids in Tibet. Or new glasses for my friend who broke hers or slipping a shopping voucher to a friend who cant afford to give her kid a birthday cake.
Ultimately it is all a juggling act in my own conscience. Sometimes when I have something that I think is decadent or luxurious or special I think about what good I might have done with the money and when those thoughts pass my mind I take it as a nudge that maybe my focus is drifting. At times when I am considering a large purchase I might pray for guidance so for example if I was considering a holiday but I was having difficulty making bookings I might take that as a sign to shift the plans. Interestingly enough, I might still take the holiday but it might be in a different place or at a lower price or the timing may change and when that happens I have to think that there must be a reason. I try to keep in mind the idea that if something has to be forced it is probably not right or the timing is out, so a change of direction is needed.
The way I see it, a Christian life has to lived, as much as our understanding allows,in close relationship to God so that our own conscience will tell us when our habits need tweaking. I know this sounds like a cop out and I am sure people use it as a cop out, a la "i feel ok about it so it must be ok" but i hope not to be that way.
I try to live so that principles dont make me grindingly poor and uncomfortable because that kind of life uses so much energy that I would have nothing left to give anybody. I tithe first, then cover basic needs with just a small amount of fat in the system and I feel that once those things are covered I have a responsibility to give what I can where ever I see a need.