Being a resolute, active follower of Jesus “in the culture” means to engage our society regarding the hopeful options a Biblical worldview provides. In kindness and love we must go towards people to enable opportunities to be salt and light in a society that desperately needs it.
Engaging a society as a resolute, active disciple of Jesus on the other hand, however, may necessitate the drawing of some lines of separation to illuminate the importance of standing on Biblical principles that should not be compromised.
At what point should Christian people actively choose “consumer restraint” and purpose to not patronize certain business and/or shun certain products? Does the setting of first generation Christianity provide any insight for us in the Scriptures? Paul makes a very interesting comment in 2 Timothy that may shed some light on this subject.
For starters, let’s be clear about one thing; corporate America cannot and should not be the entity that determines what is moral and what it not. Power, money and love of it has corrupted many over the ages and Scripture clearly verifies that fact (1Timothy 6:10). For followers of Jesus, there can only be one standard as the source for a morality. That source is God’s inspired, inerrant Word. To abdicate that to any other source would be an offense to the God of the universe.
Secondly, on a pragmatic level we should also consider how much convenience direcst us toward some of our positions. Most individuals, if honest, would not argue that ease and efficiency drive many of our choices on a consumer level. If it is cheaper, closer, more convenient, or a good bargain it is understandable why that becomes the obvious, default choice. But is it so obvious?
Choices that are prudent or Biblically principled are never going to be convenient. For a male youth worker, it is not a convenient approach to have a policy in place to never drive a teenage girl home alone in a vehicle. But, it is the wise, proper, safe and principled choice! On the consumer level we need to ask ourselves if paying a few cents more, or driving a few miles more to obtain it, or perhaps (perish the thought!) not having something at all, is a worthy consideration in contemplating whether to specifically not purchase or associate with a business that clearly is opposing God’s Word.
It may be, that for the sake of the Lord’s purpose, we should consider consumer restraint under certain circumstances. In 2 Timothy 4:14 Paul seemed to be singling out an individual who was rigidly opposing his cause; making of disciples (Matthew 28:18-20) …
14 Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works. 15 You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words.
Now, I understand Paul may have been simply warning folks to be aware of this individual and mentioning his occupation specified who he was. Fair enough. However, after reading Paul’s words, do you think the first generation believers still went to Alexander for their coppersmith needs? Is it a stretch to think the first-generation believers of the early church may have chosen to not do business with Alexander because of his position against the ministry of Paul?
But, what if his price was the best in town? What if his shop was conveniently located nearby? Not to mention the variety. He has so many options and of such good quality! Where else could I get it?
There are two statements in this passage that can help us with some guidelines for application of this subject as it is relevant for today…
- Alexander the coppersmith did enough harm that Paul was invoking the Lord’s vengeance upon him (v.14).
- Paul wanted it to be clear that Alexander had greatly resisted the message they represented (v.15).
This, apparently, was much more than a mere difference of opinion or cultural background. So, can we note there are some legitimate reasons that, for the sake of the message we represent, we could at least consider consumer restraint? I acknowledge that there are many grey areas in this subject and individuals need to navigate through those grey areas and be gracious even in disagreement.
Using this passage as our application, consider this as a guideline to begin considering a standard for consumer restraint …
- Is the owner, business, company or corporation doing harm to the cause of Christ and a Biblical worldview?
- Is the owner, business, company or corporation aggressively against the cause of Christ and a Biblical worldview?
If the answer is “yes” to either of those questions we should ask ourselves if we should support that owner, business, company or corporation with our purchases. This is where the social struggles of our contemporary society come into play. Issues like, freedom of religion, abortion, the definition of marriage, and Biblical sexuality are major topics in which followers of Christ have for too long accepted societies definition of acceptability rather than God’s. We must ask ourselves if God is pleased with His people disengaging from these issues.
I acknowledge there are other ideological things to consider in this concept …
- What if employees (who are just trying to earn a wage) don’t agree with the company’s policies? Should their jobs be placed at risk by us practicing consumer restraint?
- Where does educating business owners come into play in this scenario? Are concerned Christians engaging them about this? Some companies may be believing the secular rhetoric, and donating to causes that, if they knew what they represented, would not help to fund.
- How “nit-picky” should followers of Christ be on these issues? Is there not potential for well meaning believers to divide over these issues?
- Is it reasonable to be knowledgeable about these things with corporations constantly merging, selling and changing CEO’s and thus producing shifts where they may give or associate?
… Yes, I acknowledge these as legitimate and worthy questions. However, we must act on what we do know and not turn a blind eye to those realities. Let’s not shug a “whatever” attitude simply to avoid the potential convolution on this subject but, rather, let’s choose to engage in these issues for the good of the Gospel. Choices do matter. Even in where and from whom we purchase or invest. Resolved disciples of Jesus cannot settle for complacency or consumer ignorance. To do so is a victory of the for the devil every time.
If necessary are we willing to take an uncomfortable stand for what best honors the Lord? Each of us taking the time to consider what Jesus would do in this area would not be time wasted. No doubt the cause of Christ will be better because of it.
Need help discerning what some businesses value? Check out - www.2ndvote.com . Acknowledging that our spending habits are like another vote for a value system, 2nd Vote seeks to report on the political and social activities of major corporations around the country. As a disclaimer, I acknowledge there seems to be some inconsistencies in their rating system and this organization clearly comes from a conservative political platform, but for those of us who are concerned about a Christian worldview value system it is a decent resource to help understand what some companies are funding.