Be a Christian, Not a Consumer | Sojourners

Be a Christian, Not a Consumer

Image via Maxx-Studio/Shutterstock
Image via /Shutterstock

It’s ok to buy stuff. To exist in a Westernized world means navigating a daunting array of products, services, and goods that are constantly being marketed to your every want, need, and desire. You’re not going to go to hell for buying a pair of jeans.

But a consumer-driven society can cause Christians to idolize perfectionism. When this happens, they expect flawless worship, sermons, pastors, staff, childcare, youth programs, mission trips, conferences, camps, vacation Bible schools, classes, and even relationships.

Inevitably, when aspects of our Christian faith do cause disappointment (and they will), our constant cultural experience of being the consumer — on the receiving end of infinite commercials, advertising campaigns, and target-driven media that tells us the customer is always right — causes us to feel entitled to something better.

So we respond by complaining, demanding change, boycotting, or even abandoning any part of Christianity’s existence that is letting us down.

Before we know it we’ve left our small group, are constantly critiquing the church services, and eventually skipping out on church.

To make things worse, Christian leaders often fall into the trap of trying to cater to this consumerist mindset. Instead of Christ-centered goals, they focus on growth, popularity, efficiency, and attaining influence and power.

But Christians must remember that Jesus wasn’t that popular, that he promoted powerlessness, and that he was frustratingly inefficient. In fact, He was sacrificial, humble, giving, and forgiving — not exactly valued character attributes in today’s society.

The best way of being Christ-centered is to actually emulate the life of Jesus. Are the Fruits of the Spirit — love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness — being reflected in your churches, communities, and personal life?

Do you love your neighbor? Do you love your enemies? Are you taking care of the poor, helping the sick, empowering the downtrodden, fighting for justice, and reaching out to those on the fringes of society? Because these things are what Christians do. Not consumers.

It’s a backwards way of living, because throughout our lives we’ve been told as consumers that we’re the center of attention, that we’re the most important, and that we should look after ourselves first and foremost.

Contrarily, Jesus instructs us to do the exact opposite: to prioritize others first.

Throughout Christian communities we hear the expression “be counter-cultural.” Within our Westernized existence, this means not consuming.

Instead, try giving. Try sacrificing, serving, helping, protecting, helping, creating, and loving. Although these character traits are increasingly rare and devalued, they are what Christ-followers are meant to do.

Be a contributor.

Christians encourage, consumers complain.

Christians empower, consumers criticize.

Christians sacrifice, consumers hoard.

Christians forgive, consumers hate.

Christians work together, consumers compete.

Christians volunteer, consumers take.

Christians generously give, consumers buy.

Christians serve, consumers obtain.

Christians save, consumers waste.

Christians protect, consumers destroy.

Christians love people, consumers love things.

Consumerism drives us towards a selfish lifestyle of safety, comfort, and privilege. But Christianity is meant to point us selflessly to the cross, where Jesus was persecuted, publicly humiliated, abandoned by his friends, and tortured to death — penniless, homeless, and apparently defeated.

Being a Christians is a brave and immensely sacrificial endeavor. The Christian life — following Jesus — is amazing, wonderful, and fulfilling. But it’s also very hard, painful, and demanding. Maybe this is why it’s much easier to act like a consumer instead of like a Christian. God help us.