Never take a Russian to a supermarket…at least that was the conclusion I had come to several years back. Let me provide you with a little context to clear up what I am trying to say. Years back, Mary Beth and I were acting as dorm parents for a group of Bible College students. Some of these students were from Russia. Now this was back in the 90’s…Russia’s newly instituted, free market system was still in its infancy. Consumerism and capitalism weren’t so well established in this former communist country…in other words, there wasn’t a heck of a lot of product choice in the Russian marketplace.
A Russian couple, Vlad and Sveta, were over here studying. They were getting grounded in the faith, in the hopes of going back to their home country to make disciples and plant churches. By the way, today they are doing just that, and with remarkable success! Anyway, this very cute and godly couple had a handsome, little, chubby cheeked, newborn son. They were out of baby formula and asked me if I would take them to the store so they could get some. They were new to the area, but what I was not aware of, was that they were also new to the American marketplace.
Now if you have been around me for any period of time, you know that I don’t shop…I buy…I make lists and I divide and conquer. Personally, I would rather have a root canal with no novacaine than go shopping. I think if “Dante’s Inferno” were written during this day and age, Walmart would be one of the most intense and punishing levels of Hell.
Well, I drove Vlad and Sveta into the little town of Desert Hot springs to a Stater Brother’s supermarket. With determination to get this little shopping escapade over with as soon as possible, I directed Vlad and Sveta to the aisle with the baby products. I walked them right over to the baby formula. Then I told them I was going to run a few errands and come back and pick them up. I left them, grabbed a few items from the store and checked out. I then proceeded to drive to K-mart and pick up a few items. I also went to the local hardware store. There may have even been another store somewhere in between, but I can’t remember. Well, it took me about 45 minutes, but when I walked back into the store to get Vlad and Sveta, guess where they were? Right where I left them! There they were, standing in front of the baby formula—captivated, mesmerized, paralyzed. Too many choices…plagued by indecision. It was easier back home in Russia, where choices were limited, sometimes to just one! You took what you could get…and for the most part you were content with your choice, because you didn’t have anything to compare it to.
Now, I’m a believer in the free market system. I believe capitalism with all its disputed flaws, is still the best choice, because it places the responsibility on the individual, whereas, Communism creates a culture of dependency. However, my intent in writing this article is not to give my political opinion; that is beside the point…
I am not making any kind of new revelatory statement when I say that our culture is infected with consumerism…this requires us to exercise self control and restraint, because consumerism capitalizes on our lusts. So many choices can be captivating, mesmerizing, and even paralyzing. They feed our sin nature’s tendency toward covetousness. The result is that we are vulnerable to idolatry--worshipping created things instead of the Creator.
We are often short-sided into to thinking that socially unacceptable sinful behaviors are what we are to guard against, so we will not drift away from our Savior. While this is true, getting wrapped up in abundance can just as easily have the same result. The enemy of our souls is very clever…he understands our insecurities and longing for significance. His demonic hierarchy studies us enough to know what custom made lures to use, to entice us away from God. Lust comes in a variety of forms and some of those forms are commended by our culture. Perhaps alcohol or drugs are not your lure…maybe it’s the drive to be seen as significant and successful in the eyes of those around you…or perhaps something else.
There is consensus among the Christian Church to stay away from the bad…but even the unbelieving world, for the most part, believes such things. But what about the good? What about many of the things we are commended and affirmed for? Aren’t we always at risk of letting our identity be derived from our productivity, rather than our relationship with God?
It seems like I see more Christians get sidetracked by what is commonly considered good, than what it bad…and we must stay on guard, lest that which is good, rob us of that which is best.