It’s been almost three years since we’ve lived in the States, and I forget what it’s like sometimes. One thing I don’t miss, and have been struggling against since I have been back living here, in this waiting period is: Greed. Materialism. Consumerism.
I mean, let me paint a picture for you. In Haiti, I try to blend in but because of my skin color that never happens. So I try to blend in by other means. I don’t wear my nice jewelry, I don’t wear my best fancy clothes-mostly cause it’s too hot-, I have a dorky but practical purse, I don’t wear nice pretty sandals -mostly because of the dirt roads everywhere we go. But do you see what I mean? I even stopped wearing my wrist watch because I was asked about 3 times a day for it. Everywhere I went. It drove me nuts. Because contrary to what you may think, even though many Haitians are very very poor, they still very much care about what they look like. They go to great lengths washing and cleaning their clothes and shoes, they wear as much bling as they own, and when they go out they do it up. They fall into materialism just like we do, only it looks differently when you make less than $5 a day.
And so when I compared myself to my neighbor in Haiti, man I could feel pretty guilty. I am (was) the only one in my neighborhood with running water in my house. I was the only one with consistent electricity, not just when the public electricity would come on-maybe three/four times a week at random times. We were the only ones with our own vehicle. The only ones with a washing machine. And on and on it goes. So when you are surrounded by that, this need to compete, to “Keep up with the Jones'” really does not exist. At all. In fact, it has the opposite effect. While I might some days bemoan the fact that we have left and sold our house and almost everything in it, I can’t feel sorry for myself too long in Haiti. And that’s a good thing. At times, it’s good for me to be surrounded by people that have less than me. Because it totally changes my perspective. I am so grateful and thankful for what I have-the little and the big things. And that is one thing I love about living in the third world. Being born and from the first world, I do need that constant reminder.
And in just three and half short months, I feel the ugly pull of consumerism and materialism trying to get a hold on me. I resisted for so long, I could look at what others had and not want, and feel no judgement towards them for having those things. But now? I find myself wanting things more than I would like to admit. Of course I need a pair of cute boots even though I only have 2 more weeks to enjoy them. And I pry need them in black and brown too. (Mind you-I can’t wear boots in Nicaragua-it’s too hot!) I can hardly justify buying closed toes shoes- I wear sandals all the time!
Now hear me out. I’m not saying shoes are bad. I’m not saying stuff is bad either. What I am saying is that as I am doing a study in James, and the fifth chapter is talking about having wealth and hoarding it, I have to ask myself where my heart is in this issue. One leader compared her issues to Pinterest. How she would make boards and boards of all the stuff she wanted, the vacations she desired to go on, and it was too much. It consumed her thoughts and was always thinking about her next purchase. So she had to stop. Now, I don’t have that problem. I love Pinterest, and it doesn’t bring out the green monster in me. But I’ve realized one thing that does-simply shopping. When I can see all that is out there, and what I don’t have, I just want more. I want cuter things, nicer things. And you boys, don’t think this doesn’t apply to you too. Shopping probably isn’t where you do your comparing. Maybe it’s seeing your friends stuff, their bigger nicer house, their toys, whatever.
I was so challenged by this statement, “When we know something that cultivates immense greed in our hearts, we need to cut ourselves off from the source, whether or not the source itself is sinful.” A few years ago, for Brandon and I, it was walks in our neighborhood. You think I’m kidding right? What harm is there in a walk? We had just purchased our first home in a lovely and wealthy area, and we loved our little house. Ours was modest compared to our neighbors, whose value we knew because we loved Zillow! Every evening we’d walk our neighborhood, and go from one million dollar home to the next, we became sick with envy. At first,we were so thankful for our one acre lot, our clean, adorable, perfect house. Until we played the compare game. And it was months before we realized how toxic it was. It had creeped in, ever so slowly, to poison the joy and thankfulness in our hearts until all we could see was what we didn’t have, what we wanted. To be honest with you, it became our idol. We spent every minute of our free time on it, every single penny on it. The good news? Our eyes were finally opened to our greed, our sin. We repented of it, and turned from it. The bad news? It had consequences-not at first. It made me think maybe we had learned our lesson and that was enough. As God put missions on our hearts about four years ago, and as we prayed about direction, we had this sinking feeling we were going to have to sell our home. And sure enough, as we were struggling to figure out what country He wanted us to move to, He kept whispering to us,” sell your house, and I will tell you.” It didn’t make sense. Especially for my very financially prudent husband. To loose all the money we put it? All our blood,sweat, and tears? How about we hang onto it, rent it, and sell it later. Use the money to pay for our mission work. But we knew what God was asking of us. We knew this was the alter, and God was asking us to put our house on it. Most of you know the rest after that- the house sold in three days sight unseen, God clearly and dynamically lead us to Haiti,and He brought people and couples who supported us financially when we were support raising. It was amazing. He blessed us in ways we couldn’t have imagined.
And so I want to end with this quote, one that hit me pretty hard. I realized. living in the States, that not being caught up in the consumerism, or greed around you has to be a conscience choice. It doesn’t happen naturally. I have to fight against it…often. I kind of get a free ticket out since we are moving to Nicaragua next month. I get the easy way out, out of the middle of it, where I am simply removed from it. So how will you fight the green monster? Because if you are a child of his, God has called you too to live differently, but to still live here-in it and around it all the time. And what does that look like? For each person it will look different. It doesn’t mean we all need to take a vow of poverty-please hear me-but it does mean that we need to consciously fight against our nature, the nature to be be greedy or selfish. How do we give to others in our time, our finances, or the extra that we all have? I took my cue from Beth Moore when she asked herself this question,and I had to do the exact same thing, “While in the throes of self-evaluation, I dropped my head in prayer and asked God if He was unhappy with our household over our relationship to finances or possessions.” And I did just that. He is showing me alright! And I can promise you He too will show you too,if you ask.
So here is that quote. Chew it over. Tell me what you think. “Excessive desire to possess things is hardly innocent and left unrestrained will result in a harvest of evil. We all know the statistics about global poverty. We simply cannot be obedient disciples of the Lord Jesus and continue to willingly choose self-indulgence, all the while ignoring the desperate needs of others. We need to get serious about guarding our hearts from this ugly sin.”