9/21/13

An Uncomfortable Truth: America's Comfortable Lifestyle

Reading changes us. Authors can help us focus our thoughts on uncomfortable truths. Then it's up to us to act.

Two authors' words have so gripped my heart. I have to face my selfishness and unbiblical living. First I read Jen Hatmaker's 7: An Experimental Mutiny against Excess

In 7, Hatmaker describes the excesses of American living, and her radical response. She identified seven areas of excess and made seven simple choices over a span of seven months to stand against modern-day greed, materialism and overindulgence.

Her humorous-yet-convicting journal describes the ups and downs she faced in dealing with seven areas: food, clothes, spending, media, possessions, waste and stress. She, her family (to a degree), and a women's "Council" who joined her on this journey spent 30 days highlighting each issue.

During each month of focus, the "seven" concept flowed throughout her experiment in fighting excesses:
  1. Only eating seven foods
  2. Only wearing seven articles of clothing
  3. Only spending money in seven places
  4. Eliminating the use of seven media types
  5. Giving seven things away each day
  6. Adopting seven "green" habits
  7. Observing "seven sacred pauses

Hatmaker was honest ... it wasn't easy. I have to admit, I wonder if I could survive! I am so spoiled.

My takeaway from the book is a pursuit of simplicity and generosity with greater understanding of my need for disciplined, selfless living, more "space" to seek God and greater gratitude. HUGE gratitude. I may not follow Hatmaker's formula, but my thinking has changed and I definitely have already altered my lifestyle.

Then, I read a blog post by "Amy," a servant of God working in Tanzania, who titled her post, "You don't know how good you've got it, Middle Class America."

"Amy" also described the incredible abundance and values Americans take for granted. Her observations were written after a week in culture shock, and she compares America's bounty and privileges with the conditions millions upon millions face every day.

Amy highlighted vast differences in security, freedoms, availability of food and water, consumerism, education, medical care, community services and governmental involvement. Some telling statements:
  • You don't have to walk five miles to find water that's full of cholera.
  • Your family lives in an entire house, not just one room in a house.  And even then, you have to rent a storage unit because you can't fit all of your stuff into it.
  •  You have a fair amount of confidence that your child will live until adulthood.
  •  our government has checks and balances, and you are not ruled by a ruthless dictator who feeds people to his crocodiles for fun. 
Most Americans don't have a clue how blessed we are!

Her conclusion? Amy echoes Jen's call to biblical stewardship. Stewardship of our time. Stewardship of our money. Stewardship of our possessions. Stewardship of the earth. Stewardship of every good gift God provides.

"Middle Class America, I know your lives aren't perfect," Amy wrote. "But to whom much has been given, much will be expected." Her mindset comes directly from scripture (Luke 12, especially verses 15, 21-23, 30-34, 48).

I will stand before God to account for His bountiful gifts (2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 14:10-12) ... how I used them ... how I shared them ... when I met the needs of the poor, hungry and nearly-naked ... whether I stood against injustice.

Once our eyes are opened, how can we ever again say we "didn't see"?

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