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).1