But we live in a world that has lost its appreciation for small things. We live in a world that wants things bigger and bigger. We want to supersize out fries, sodas, and church buildings (25).
I'm one of those people who falls into the "bigger is better" traps all the time. It's not healthy. I mean, think about it: you want your fries and your coke biggie size? Have you seen the amount of calories in that stuff? And locked in all those calories is the potential for weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, heart attack, stroke, etc. Physically, it's not healthy.
It's not healthy spiritually either. We can lose our perspective. Bigger churches can allow us to think that everyone lives like us. We spend all our money on building bigger buildings when we should really be using that money to help others. We think we need more space, when the better answer might be meeting together at different times, instead of all at the same time. Bigger things spoil us and make us think more highly of ourselves.
We live in a consumer culture with enough stuff gathering dust on our shelves (32).
I have stuff I don't use. About a year ago, I started cleaning out all this stuff. I think it started with magazines I'd been holding on to for one or two recipes. One day, I decided enough was enough and I cut the recipes out, put them all in one place, and recycled those magazines. Then I recycled old computer magazines that hadn't been looked at for a few years. After that it was toiletries and clothes, some of my son's old toys, and then I went through drawers and got rid of stuff in there.
I try not to think of all the money I spent on those things I was getting rid of. That's money that could have been saved for something obviously more important.
And that's the key: we have all these things we spend out money on, and most of them become stuff gathering dust on our shelves. I'm not against knick-knacks (completely) or books, but some of these things were made just to look pretty. That's their sole function. How do we have enough money to buy stuff that gathers dust, but no money to buy a homeless guy a meal?
So I would suggest we need a third way, neither the prosperity gospel nor the poverty gospel, but the gospel of abundance rooted in the theology of enough (172).
For those of you who don't know what the prosperity gospel is, it's the theory that God wants you to be rich. Some call it "name it and claim it" theology - tell God what you want and claim it in His name.
The prosperity gospel also has been called the "name it and claim it" theology. God wants His people to prosper, evangelists like [Joyce] Meyer maintain. Those who follow God and give generously to his ministries can have anything, and everything, they want.
Meyer spends most of her three-day conferences on lessons in giving, and she is blunt when she addresses what the critics say about her seed-faith interpretation of the Bible. She says that those preachers who believe that to be godly is to be poor are the ones who have it wrong.
"Why would He (God) want all of His people poverty stricken while all of the people that aren't living for God have everything?" Meyer said. "I think it's old religious thinking, and I believe the devil uses it to keep people from wanting to serve God."
Bill Smith and Carolyn Tuft,"The Prosperity Gospel." The St. Louis Post Dispatch, 9/18/03
I don't think God wants us any of us to live in poverty - nor do I think he wants everyone to be rich. I don't think he really wants anyone to be rich when there are hungry and homeless people in the world. It's quite obvious that He has allowed some of His followers to be rich. When God asked Solomon what he wanted, Solomon asked for wisdom. God gave him wisdom, but also made the young king rich beyond even our wildest dreams. But Solomon was the exception rather then the rule, and the Bible is full of people who had what they needed, but they certainly weren't rich.
The point that Claiborne is making is that we need balance. Jesus told us that when we pray we should ask for our daily bread; we should ask for the things we need, not the luxuries we want. God may provide much more than we need, or He may not.
After all, what's crazier: one person owning the same amount of money as the combined economies of twenty countries, or suggesting that if we shared, there would be enough for everyone (344)?
It's crazy to suggest we share. After all, that sounds like communism.
But sharing is better than waste. How many times have you spent money on groceries, only to have a loaf of bread or a head of cauliflower go bad? I have, and I'm ashamed. If I had planned ahead, I wouldn't have allowed that to happen.
This is why we need to share. We have an abundance of resources in America, and every day some of them go to waste because we have a surplus we don't know how to use. The surplus is there because we demand more and bigger, and we demand more and bigger because we've always had more than we need.
Is this really what it's all about? Is that really the American Dream?
We knew that the world cannot afford the American dream and that the Good News is that there is another dream (119).