Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Vanity Fair vs. Abundant Life

We are seeing our American way of life collapsing around us. I have been reading about how our prosperity has been built on the work of others more and more as the years have passed. And I blush to realize that our country has become an oppressing force in the word. I am as guilty of this greed and apathy as anyone else. I repent again of my vain lifestyle as I see more deeply how vain it truly is.

God in the Bible frequently warns the rich and calls the rich and powerful bloodthirsty and violent. (Prov. 23:4; Prov. 28:20; Is 1:15-17; Jer 7:6; Jer 22:17; James 5:16; Rev 18:11-19, and many others) From the time of Noah through to Jesus, this scathing rebuke is repeated again and again. What if we could see the blows we deal to others by our extravagance? Did that wonderful intemperate meal leave someone else hungry? Could that gorgeous new outfit mean someone wears rags? What if that darling new thing decorating the house causes someone to shiver through the night? Does that new car force a neighbor around the world to go without shoes? If thoughts like these make you ashamed, I am glad. God is not pleased and I believe that we will all soon see Him face to face.

What if we went back to the basics, while not forsaking the greatest benefit of modern life- medical advances. What would that look like?

As part of a school project with my girls, we learned a lot about farming. It was very eye-opening to discover that a vegetarian family could produce almost all they needed to eat or wear in about two acres of fertile land.

Of course, there are things that would still need to be produced or made by others. It would be inefficient for farmers to make cloth, for example. But all could live simply either on a small farm or making products. There ought to be time enough for all to engage in artistic, intellectual, scientific and spiritual pursuits. Everyone could do what they loved best and share freely as they produced more than they needed, trusting that all others are doing the same.

But of course, I know that is never going to happen this side of heaven. So why bring it up? Because it shows how the modern world has chosen vanity over the abundance of the earth. The world has become increasingly urban, which means less farming and other production. Especially has this been true in America, where the last thirty years have seen a move from a product-based economy to a service-based one. This means that most American jobs now focus on transferring money from one business to another, while our farmers and skilled craftsmen are becoming an endangered breed. The third world is not willing or able to support our empty, frantic race for pleasure any longer. For myself, I plan to give much more careful thought to my spending so that I don't trade the vanity of the moment for the abundant life.

In the words of John Huss, "Beware of adorning thy house more than thy soul... Be pious and humble with the poor and consume not thy substance in feasting. Shouldst not thou amend thy life and refrain from superfluities, I fear that thou wilt be severely chastened, as I am myself... But, I conjure thee, by the mercy of our Lord, not to imitate me in any of the vanities into which thou has seen me fall."

In the words of Jesus, "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?"

- Verity