July 19-25, 2004
If Dairy Queen’s stock spiked last Thursday, investors can credit me – and the lousy day I was having. Feeling depressed, I drowned my sorrows in not one, but two large Blizzards.
These addictively delicious treats – soft-serve ice cream with hot fudge and candy bits mixed in – contain enough calories to propel Lance Armstrong from the Pyrenees to Paris. Of course, the Blizzards failed to take away my troubles but they tasted sweet and satisfying. At $3.50 apiece, they were cheap narcotics.
My ice-cream indulgence hints at the real reason why America is losing its battle with obesity, as the items in this week’s Gleanings make clear.
As a culture, we Americans medicate and pacify ourselves with consumption. And not just food. Because it’s not only America’s waistlines that are getting bigger, but also the mini-mansion houses we’re building, the overstuffed cars and light trucks we’re putting on the road, the increasingly ostentatious wedding receptions we’re throwing, and on and on.
For Christian stewards, overconsumption represents a profound misuse of God’s gifts.
The rite of baptism in The Lutheran Book of Worship asks us to renounce the devil and all the devil’s empty promises. Overconsumption speaks to the most empty of the devil’s empty promises: That our possessions – the things we consume – will make us happy, give us security and peace of mind. This empty promise is proclaimed incessantly on TV and billboards and newspaper ads. And it’s a lie.
If possessions brought happiness, Americans would be the most euphoric people on the planet.
The Gleanings items tell how Medicare now considers obesity a disease. But they’re wrong. It’s only a symptom of a larger disease, a spiritual disease of overconsumption that is cured only by the reality therapy of our faith.
Again and again, Jesus warns against putting our trust in possessions instead of God. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:31-34, Therefore do not worry, saying, "What will we eat?' or "What will we drink?' or "What will we wear?' For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
I’ll try to remember that the next time I’m pulling into Dairy Queen.
-Rob Blezard, editor and webmaster
Brief History of American Stewardship
Now available - a reprint of the popular resource exploring how stewardship transformed from a general concept of responsible Christian living in the 19th century to a euphemism for church finances in the 20th -- and how 21st century leaders can reclaim the broader meaning of stewardship. By William O. Avery, professor of stewardship at Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg. Read Dr. Avery's preface. Available for $2 a copy, including shipping and handling.
"We [Americans] live casually with abundance that most people in the world cannot even imagine, and yet most of it is invisible to us. … Maybe the biggest obstacle to generosity toward the poor is our blindness to the abundance that God has given us. Maybe the most important American middle-class prayer should be a request for eyes to see our abundance." Prophetic words in an essay by Margaret G. Payne, Bishop of the New England Synod.
Let God's Blessings Flow - Through You
“The idea of not being independent scares us. Rather than give first fruits, we make sure we have enough for us, and not just our daily bread, but enough for ever so that we never have to be dependent on anyone. This of course belies the idea that we are dependent first of all on God.” In Dana Reardon's weekly reflection
Fund Raiser for Mission
"The time has come in our church when we, as clergy and leaders, can no longer divorce ourselves from raising money for mission. To a present culture of materialism, selfishness, and consumerism, we are called to model in our own lives and teach others Christian financial stewardship." By Jerry L. Schmalenberger, former president and professor of parish life at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary.. In the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives.