Today we went to the Mall of America to shop. It is the second-largest mall in the world, surpassed in size only by the West Edmonton Mall. You can get pretty much anything here. The whole point of the mall is consumption – buying, selling, getting, spending. So we did our bit to stimulate the economy.
I don’t seem to to be able to go through life without reflecting on my experiences. It’s just the way I’m wired. I’ve heard it said that the unexamined life is not worth living. I believe that if we are truly disciples of Jesus, every aspect of life should be under His Lordship. So today I was reflecting on the experience of shopping, and whether our shopping choices are significant to God.
This may seem like a weird question. Does God care if you buy a particular shirt or pair of shoes or electronic gadget or tasty treat? Aren’t those trivial matters – not that important?
Actually, it’s the stuff of everyday living that reveals to what extent Jesus is really Lord of our lives. Going to the mall of America may be a real spiritual test for someone who is inclined to be self-indulgent. The Holy Spirit may be giving you an opportunity to recognize and resist temptation. If you were to listen to that inner voice before buying, you might get a gentle nudge to say “No” to your most recent whim – both to lead you into the freedom of self-control, and so that you have more left to give to others.
On the other hand, if you are someone who feels guilty about spending, there could be a different kind of challenge. The Holy Spirit may want to teach you something about God’s desire to bless you. Or He may want you set you free to give a generous gift to someone you love.
One thing is for sure – from reading the Gospels it is very clear to me that if we want to live as Kingdom people, every detail of our lives matters. How we handle finances is a reflection of the condition of our hearts, and that matters a great deal to God.
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Marion and I have also been spending quite a bit of time this week at fairly close quarters with our son Simeon and daughter-in-law Heather and their new baby, who have graciously opened up their apartment to us for the week. Add in our daughter Bethany and son Joe (who came with us), plus various members of Heather’s family who live next door and are frequently in and out of their apartment, and you are looking at a fairly constant stream of family interactions.
As wonderful as family is, living at close quarters like this can be a strain at times, especially for new parents like Simeon and Heather who are dealing with an adorable but sometimes-fussy baby, and new grandparents like Marion and myself who are still learning how to operate with grace in our new role. So we have had to work a few things out over the past couple of days. This is not always easy, and our human weaknesses – mine, anyway – sometimes come to the surface. This is humbling, but also good for us. Little conflicts give us an opportunity to grow in grace. I’m learning that the secret to healthy and redemptive relationships is not avoiding all conflict, but handling it with grace. The effort to understand one another is well worth the cost. I am so grateful for the Lord’s mercy and grace. God, teach me to place my heart and my tongue under your control daily.