My husband nudged me, and I gave him an amused glance. We were sitting through another Sunday-morning presentation by a worthy ministry looking for donations. The guest speaker had just spoken the words we had been waiting for:
"All we ask is for you to give up one cup of coffee each week."
My husband and I don't drink coffee, so we laugh partly because the national obsession is completely lost on us. We also laugh because all this talk about coffee is completely missing the point. It suggests missional living is about simply giving up a small luxury so we can feel less guilty about continuing our consumerist habits, but in a way we can feel good about.
Most of us genuinely want to make a difference. We want our lives to count, and we want to live missionally. But what does that mean?
Unfortunately, in typical American fashion, we assume the answer to that question is in our wallets. In doing so, we play right into the hands of peddlers who are happy to capitalize on our lazy, but well-intentioned, living.
With so many people wanting to be caught doing the right thing, it's a great corporate marketing tool. Buy that yogurt and you'll be making a donation to medical research. Choose this store and you'll contribute money to your local schools. Go ahead and buy another pair of shoes you don't need—you're really doing it for someone else!
Genuine charity is wonderful, and financial sacrifice is admirable. The danger lies in consumerism masked as Christ-like living, which is a completely empty pursuit. Without genuine love, financial contributions mean nothing in God's kingdom (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
Though my husband and I shared a laugh over the speaker's coffee comment, the heart behind money and missional living is no laughing matter. Our hearts' desires should not be found in spending money—or in saving it. Missional living is found rather in being. It's about who we are and how we are, regardless of how much money we have. Our relationship with money will naturally flow from the relationship between God and our hearts.
Luke 10:27, 1 Corinthians 10:31, Colossians 3:23, and 1 Peter 2:15 all give examples of what it means to live missionally, to live as a person of loving integrity, letting God change you, and living as the new person he has made you to be. Our everyday lives should match our beliefs, and what we give lip service to should be apparent in our habits.
True missional living is not about what we can acquire. It's about who we are—and sometimes about giving away parts of ourselves or the gifts God has given us, expecting nothing in return. Doing laundry, going to the grocery store, working, paying bills, and interacting with family, friends, and strangers can all be missional activities, done in sync with a heart that is right with God.
Want to do the right thing? Start making a difference by being different. Listen to the Holy Spirit rather than the voices of brilliant marketing campaigns. And when you share that cup of coffee, do it not to appease your conscience: instead, do it in Jesus' name, and for him.
Amy Simpson is managing editor of Gifted for Leadership.