Doing Good by Buying Well

Embark on a journey toward compassionate consumerism

I love choices. Unless there are too many of them. Do I really need to consider 231 shades of green, 188 shades of blue, or 184 shades of white when selecting the wall color for my bedroom? (Yes, those are real numbers from a nationally recognized paint store.)

Will my ice cream purchase be a grievous disappointment if I'm not presented with 103 flavors? (Also a real number from a popular ice cream manufacturer.) American materialism and consumption are out of control. But who cares? After all, we're not hurting anyone. Or are we?

Unbridled consumption

Some Christians think we should feel guilty for our blessings—that we're hypocrites because we don't obey Jesus' admonition to sell our possessions and give to the poor (Matthew 19:21). Others comfort themselves with Jesus' declaration that the poor will always be with us (Matthew 26:11), so there's no use trying to eradicate poverty.

But the reality is that while American consumers are doing their best to contribute to the global economy, we're also contributing to a global problem. Many people in developing countries pay a high price to support our consumerism, especially in providing us with choices, say for paint, ice cream, and clothing. For example, whether you're a bargain hunter buying a $5 T-shirt at Walmart or a fashionista purchasing a $93 G-Star Raw T-shirt at Nordstrom, your clothing was probably manufactured in China, Cambodia, or Bangladesh.

Importing apparel manufactured overseas is not a new practice. But years ago, it was easier to distance ourselves from foreign labor injustices occurring on the other side of the world. Now, images of sweatshops in China or a building collapse in Bangladesh appear in our online newsfeeds in immediate, living color.

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Activism; Christmas; Consumerism; Consumption; Money; Social justice; Stewardship
Today's Christian Woman, November Week 1, 2013
Posted October 22, 2013

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