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Aug. 10-16, 2009


Discovering the Spiritual

Side of Shopping

By Keith A. Mundy

The more you have, the more everyone expects from you.
Your money won’t do you any good –
others will just spend it for you.
            -Ecclesiastes 5:11 CEV

When I was young visiting my grandmother in North Dakota, she would give me a nickel to walk half a block to the local family store. I could buy any candy I wanted. It was only a penny a piece. I would return and show her what I had bought and why. It was a special treat for me. Not because it was candy or how much it was, but because my grandmother and I did not get to share such experiences often.

How different life seems today. As Arthur Miller wrote in The Price, "… the main thing today is – shopping. Years ago a person, if he was unhappy, didn’t know what to do with himself – he’d go to church, start a revolution – something. Today, you’re unhappy? Can’t figure it out? What is the salvation? "Go shopping!" You may be reminded of the bumper sticker that reads, "If the going gets tough, the tough go shopping!"

How often have you turned to shopping as a temporary solution to a spiritual or relationship problem? This has probably become easier since there are more shopping malls than churches. This may also explain why many people spend more time shopping each week than talking with their loved ones or worshipping God.

Just why is it that people go shopping so much? Research suggests four reasons. First, store clerks are trained to be nice, helpful and attentive to each shopper. This is one way individuals receive personal attention. Second, shopping can be like therapy. It can be fresh and exciting – what’s the newest style? What is the latest gadget? This can help people take their mind off problems. Third, shopping can relieve stress from work or home. And fourth, shopping provides an opportunity to dream or fantasize about what might be possible if. When a person feels uncared for or overwhelmed by challenges, the marketplace offers choices. Usually the marketplace does not provide solutions to daily issues through conversation, prayer or reflection time with others.

Does this mean shopping is evil? No, not at all. It serves a purpose in God’s economy too. Shopping is like many other activities. It has a dark side and a light side. If people do not value their resources, i.e. money and time, shopping can result in squandering both and take away from important relationships. On the other hand, if shopping is done shrewdly, with a feeling of appreciation for God’s gifts and others, it can serve God, oneself and others. How was your most recent shopping experience?

While my wife and I have distinctly different tastes, we have learned to work well together in making major purchasing decisions. There was the time we bought a new house and she said, "I would like it fully decorated when we move in and I don’t want the hassle. You take care of it." For me this was a creative challenge, and the process was not without considerable consultation with her. This year it will be fifteen years since we moved into that house. We have discovered the events and relationships that have occurred in this house are more important than any of the things we purchased to put in the house.

Perhaps what we have learned can best be summarized in some words written by Marilyn Ferguson; "We may also discover that ‘ownership’ is in some senses an illusion, that holding on to things can keep us from freely enjoying them. Greater awareness may give us new appreciation for the simple things." And one of these simple things is appreciating the people who are important to us. Perhaps you have discovered this in your life, or you may be searching to do so.

For more reflections on money and ownership, refer to the Ministry of Money. This is a loving, prophetic Christian ministry which encourages all persons to become free from their attachment to cultural values regarding money and to live joyfully in God’s call for their lives and resources. Simply go to www.ministryofmoney.org

Keith A. Mundy is assistant director for stewardship for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. This is a column he wrote for Stewardship Now, a resource the ELCA makes available for congregations to use in their newsletters, bulletins and other publications. 

New This Week:

The Story of Stuff
StuffEver wonder where all that junk in your house comes from? Ever consider where it goes when you get rid of it? What’s the true cost of consumer goods? Take a look at this powerful 20 minute animated, interactive movie written by Annie Leonard. Click here for the Story of Stuff produced by Free Range Studios.

Eco-CongregationAn Environmental Toolkit for Churches
Is your congregation interested in exploring “environmental issues in the context of their Christian life and mission while encouraging positive action?” If so, this twelve module toolkit from Eco-congregation Canada might be a good place to start. Click here for “How to Become and Eco-Congregation,”  a project of A Rocha Canada.

SharronLectionary Reflection: Let the Living Bread Live
After 2,000 years of Holy Communion, Christians may forget that when Jesus said “I am the bread of life,” he was really shaking things up and making a powerful statement. That’s the kind of passion and energy we need to recapture in our preaching, our ministries our lives. Click here for “Let the Living Bread Live.” It’s this week’s lectionary reflection from Pastor Sharron Riessinger Lucas. Click here to read her archived columns.

BreadDaily Bread
Baking Bread is a conscious act of stewardship, but it doesn’t mean one must slave away in the kitchen to enjoy a delicious, healthy loaf. Since we’re right in the middle of a series of bread texts from John’s gospel, why not try this no-knead recipe illustrated by Mark Bittman and based on a recipe from Jim Lahey of the Sullivan Street Bakery. Click here for “Making No-Knead Bread,” from The New York Times.


      Copyright 2009 Stewardship of Life Institute