After last week's break, I'm joining again with Marla for the Radical Read-along. This week we're focussing on chapter 6 "How much is enough?: American wealth and a world of poverty".
Once again, this week's chapter has left me unsure of how to respond. This isn't that I'm being convicted, but because we've already chosen to live a life of sacrifice. Where do I go from there? How much is enough?
Recently, I learned that I am in the top 1% of the wealthiest people in the world. Granted, my wealth doesn't look like much compared to the great wealth of others, but this statistic shook me. In my nation, I live just a short step above the poverty line. It wasn't that many years ago that we were below the poverty line, which is also where I grew up. If my poverty is in fact riches, what then does the rest of the world look like?
Around the same time, I was spending a lot of time reading James. The fifth chapter of James in particular speaks quite harshly to the rich. Verse four jumped out at me:
For listen! Hear the cries of the field workers whom you have cheated of their pay. The wages you held back cry out against you. The cries of those who harvest your fields have reached the ears of the Lord of Heaven's Armies." (James 5:4 NLT)
One of the reasons I enjoy such a nice lifestyle is that many of my luxuries, including food, are purchased at unreasonably low prices. Many farmers are not paid fair wages. To keep our food cosmetically appealing as well as hardy, many chemicals are applied to this food. Pesticides and the like didn't used to bother me. Until I learned about the appallingly high rate of cancer and other diseases among farmers that use pesticides. My new knowledge combined with this scripture to make a life change.
Over the last couple of growing seasons, my family has been dabbling in eating local and organic. We've joined a CSA as well as local foods buying club. Although this food tastes a lot better, it's still very expensive and we're still relatively poor. Even though I knew I could purchase local organic flour, I chose to buy the much less expensive grocery store flour. My heart was leaning towards local foods, but I was determined to be a responsible shopper. Until I read this verse. I was convicted.
I was part of the problem. I had alternatives, I knew better, but still thought that this was all about me. I didn't like this new revelation. I felt convicted to spend the extra money on local flour and meat, but didn't want to obey. What would my husband say? What about our very tight food budget? I decided to be cute and asked God to raise our support. Instead we lost a supporter. What was God trying to say?
I soon decided that God didn't want my maybes. He didn't want my "if we can afford it"s. He wanted my obedience. I bought the expensive flour. I bought the pricey local hormone, drug-free meat from a farmer who needs the income. I bought local produce at fair prices, not cheap ones. I have a long way to go on that one, but it's fun insisting on paying extra because I know their goods are worth more. We sacrificed. We eat less meat and are working on making what meat we eat go a lot further. We've drastically cut back on our purchase of junk food and other prepared or packaged foods.
This isn't a final solution. We've identified one area that needs work and are steadily working on eating in a much healthier, sustainable, responsible manner. But there are still a lot of people who need food, shelter, medicine and Jesus. I don't know where God is going to lead us next or where other blindspots are in my faith-walk. But whatever the cost, wherever the call, I really really really want to obey God and live a life of sacrifice not indulgence.