The opening lines of Trainspotting have almost become an entity unto themselves:

“Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a {bleeping} big television, choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol, and dental insurance. Choose fixed interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisurewear and matching luggage… Choose your future. Choose life …”

If there were a compilation of the top 10 quotes to define the last two decades of life in the West, Sickboy’s monologue would surely be up there. Also, wouldn’t that be a great list?

If consumerism is a religion, then this is the altar call, and the mantra is nothing more than: ‘I am what I buy.’ Sickboy taps into the psyche of a worldview that many of us slip into without realising. And that can create problems if we apply it to every aspect of our life, particularly our faith. It becomes the lens through which we view everything else.

We evaluate Church by what we get out of it: the worship used too many new/old songs; the sermon was too long; I had to park really far away, and so on. And we use the same lens for our relationships – we assess people based on what they bring to our life, rather than how we serve.

The truth is that God didn’t create us as consumers. Quite the opposite, really. The story in Genesis shows God placing humans right in the thick of the world He created. And His charge to us? To cultivate; to create culture. Not just consume it.

Then fast-forward to when Jesus was walking on the earth. There was a moment when the disciples got into an argument about who got to sit in the fancy seats when Jesus overthrew the government and instituted his kingdom. It didn’t seem to matter that God incarnate was hanging out with them, the disciples still didn’t get it. The mandate given in the beginning had been distorted from give, to get.

They wanted a prime seat in the new kingdom. In John 13 we watch Jesus demonstrate the kind of mentality that the new kingdom would be based on: one of giving and service. I’d love to have seen the disciples’ faces as Jesus got an apron on, kneeled down and began to wash their feet.

It’s important to remember that underground sewage didn’t exist, that excrement from animals would be all over the roads, and that it was hot. In some nearby areas there were even laws that made it illegal for slaves to have to clean their masters feet. That’s how gross feet were.

When he finished, he explained what had just happened: “You address me as ‘Teacher’ and ‘Master,’ and rightly so. That is what I am. So if I, the Master and Teacher, washed your feet, you must now wash each other’s feet. I’ve laid down a pattern for you. What I’ve done, you do. I’m only pointing out the obvious.” John 13: 13-15.

Yes, we have a need to consume, but that’s not all. Jesus laid down a blueprint: we’re here to contribute, to serve, to give abundantly and sacrificially.

Today, there are many people encouraging us to register to vote in the next general election. Now, the last thing I want to do is use the words of Jesus for a lecture about voting, but it’s not an inconceivable link. Government is one of the biggest proponents when it comes to creating and cultivating. So I want to challenge my representatives to do that well.

Once every few years we get the opportunity to select those who want to cultivate our community. The election campaigns will entertain and frustrate us over the next 90 days. But rather than sitting by and doing nothing about it, we have an opportunity to ask tough questions of those who seek to represent us. How will our politicians cultivate what God has made? Let’s ask them to stand for more than just an election.

You are not what you buy. You are built for more than that. As you move through the rest of your week, be aware of the pitfalls of the Church of consumerism. How can you embrace the mandate given to us in Genesis, and exemplified in Jesus, to give beyond measure, rather than get?

Written by Thomas McConaghie // Follow Thomas on  Twitter // Thomas'  Website

Thomas is a coordinator for threads. He's an elder in his local church (Village Church Belfast), working on a Masters in urban planning and geeks out on football. He's married to Laura and the father of two-year-old Ezra.

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