Something Mark Driscoll said in a sermon (though surely more than one sermon in his day) is (and I’ll destroy this quote, so my apologies, Pastor Mark) that we tend to demonize the things we used to idolize. In other words, our perspective can quickly shift from thinking that something is God to thinking it’s purely evil.
I remember this principle at work in high school.
As a youth in America, it’s easy to love sports. It’s easy to obsess over sports. Then when you go to church, it’s easy to feel like sports are an idol. So then we respond viciously and decide that Jesus doesn’t want us watching football on Sunday afternoons or going to the park to play basketball. Eventually [at least hopefully] we come to a balance at which we realize that sport can be something that we enjoy and participate in for the good of our minds and bodies, but it doesn’t take up the intellectual and emotional capital it once did [I still struggle with getting emotionally involved in sports. Don’t we all have our vices?]
But as you go through life, it’s not always so overt. Sometimes it’s harder to spot and easier to foster. Lately for me, it’s been about stuff.
[side note: if you’ve been reading my blog at all in the last two or so months, you’ve seen the documented struggle I’ve had with money. This is related, but I like to think I’m reflecting from the end of this season. Yet another point for the sanctifying quality of relationships, too!]
Erica has a kindle. She loves her kindle, and she explained that part of her reasoning is that when she travels, she can’t carry a lot of books, but her kindle is small and compact, and it can hold all of her books digitally. Win-win.
When I was in the idolatry phase of stuff and money, I lamented that I didn’t have a kindle. It became all about me and my woes, and I felt inferior because after all, I didn’t make as much money and couldn’t afford all of the cool stuff that Erica did.
But then I started demonizing stuff.
I began thinking about how much better I was for having the “real thing” and preferring physical books to digital ones. How I was better for buying real CDs and being frugal and finding a deal instead of spending money on itunes and amazon for my music. I began finding myself angry when, at work, people would push their credit card my way to pay for their coffee. I thought things like, “all of these people who don’t pay in cash – I hate it when people rely on a card to solve all of their problems. Makes me sick.”
I wasn’t right in either case.
Here’s the reality – for some people, digital things are more functional. When you’re listening to music and you’re on the go, often times CDs aren’t the best option. Sometimes you don’t have the desire or the time to go to the store and buy a physical CD, so you buy one on your computer, phone, or tablet. It’s not malicious.
For some people [Erica being the perfect example] having a kindle is more functional. They don’t really care about having a physical book and being able to flip through pages and smell them. They care about compactness and efficiency. That’s all well and good. One’s not better than the other.
For some people, paying with a debit or credit card is easier. Maybe they get direct deposit and don’t find themselves at the bank very often. Who am I to judge and say that they’re irresponsible or they’re assuming because they have no problem pushing a card my way?
Here’s the other thing I have to remember: how many times do I effortlessly spend money I shouldn’t? Maybe I’m frugal in a lot of ways, but how many people spend more money than I do and are more generous than I am? Is one better? Who’s to say? But often times I find myself judging people for spending money on a digital book or album when they could get the physical one for a third of the price, and yet I go out and with hardly a second thought pay $70 (at least) for a soccer jersey that I’ll wear once a week which represents a team I have no geographical or traditional connection with.
It’s easy to idolize. It’s easy to demonize. It’s easy to assume that other people have the problem and I don’t. But at the end of the day, we’re all just people – we all need Jesus, and we all need to learn to see things through His eyes, and do what He tells us to do. It’s not necessarily my job to decide who’s wrong, who’s right, and what people’s motives are.