Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Talking Me Out of a Smartphone

I feel strange today, uninterested, unfocused, switching projects every few minutes. Restless.

I feel like I'm slipping into something, something I shouldn't be sucked into.

Searching the internet for phone plans,
debating whether or not to actually get that smartphone,
thinking of spending money I don't have on things I don't need just because they're available.

Meanwhile, my friend Benard in Kenya's slums doesn't have enough money to get patients out of the hospital, pay for HIV treatments for widows and orphans, or get a hospital bed for that 10 year old girl whose father raped her.

Do I need a smartphone? No, and to be honest, no one really does.
Do my brothers and sisters around the world need resources to survive? Yes.

Who am I to deny them that?

By making a choice to buy some unnecessary luxury for myself over using that money for my brothers and sisters in need, I am turning my back on the Gospel, on Jesus Himself.

"But wait," people say, "doesn't God want us to have good things?"

Yes, of course. But our definition of "good" needs to change. Because I have siblings dying around the world while I lavish in my "good" things.

"Good" is this: "Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common...There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need." Acts 4:32-35

The early church eradicated poverty because they knew God did not give them possessions to hold onto, but to distribute to anyone who was in need. Paul also says later that the thief should no longer steal, but work with his own hands "so that he may have something to share with anyone in need" (Eph. 4:28).  The thief doesn't just work so he will no longer steal. He works in order to share the bounty with anyone in need.

Who am I to live in comfort and excess when my Christian family is in need of their daily bread?

"But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk, but in deed and truth." 1 John 3:17,18

How can God's love abide in me when I ignore the suffering of my neighbors, my family, around the world?

"But I don't see anyone in need!" 

Open your eyes. Be willing to look beyond your own backyard. 

As followers of Christ, the Church (which is you and me) should be at the forefront of meeting the needs of our brothers and sisters around the world. That doesn't mean we can have it both ways, living in luxury and giving the leftover to charity.  

Every purchase is a choice: me or my family in need around the world. And if we have read the Bible, we know to follow Christ we must die to self. Is it really dying to self if I'm buying another pair of shoes, a new phone, a movie, a fancy dinner...anything that focuses on me rather than Christ and my neighbor? 

For visual readers: You're in the store checking out a range of new smartphones and tablets (since this is my current issue).  Next to the row of gadgets is a malnourished child asking you for food. 

You can:
A) Buy the phone, ignoring the kid completely
B) Buy the phone and give the kid the change (or some extra just to make yourself feel better about doing the "right" thing)
C) Give the kid all the money you were going to spend on a smartphone
D) Bring the kid in to your home, feed him, clothe him, love him and spend infinitely more on him than a quick pass by would allow

I'm not being dramatic.
This is the choice we have every time we make a purchase. 
We just choose to ignore there is a choice. 

My brothers and sisters are dying around the world and I'm debating whether or not to spend $200 and an extra $30 a month for a cellphone? A cellphone?! Sure I could buy that phone, justify how it would make things so much easier, how I'd get lost less by using the GPS, how I could now use Bible apps to look up verses on the go, how I could be in contact with everyone I know at all times and never miss anything exciting on Facebook, and then, in addition, send another hundred bucks to Compassion International and feel good both about the purchase and my distant act of charity. Why didn't I just send Compassion all the money I would have spent on that phone plus the hundred extra and say, "Jesus, you are my fulfillment and I need nothing else, not a fancy phone, not a new outfit, not another purse, not anything beyond necessity for myself." Better yet, why didn't I call up Compassion and say, "I'm looking to be the hands and feet of Christ. What do you need me to do?" And then give them all my money. 

This was not a guilt trip.
This was me talking myself out of selfishness. 
If you're convicted, good.
Go do something about it. 

Guess I talked myself out of a smartphone. 

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