Is It Wrong?

I recently came across an interesting discussion on the MOPS forum: Is it wrong for a Christian to spend $300, (or some other large amount), on a handbag? The point wasn’t so much the handbag–you could easily insert designer clothes, sunglasses, shoes, or even something completely unrelated to apparel and accessories, (and often even more expensive), such as a fancy car or a vacation, or even going out to dinner regularly. The real point was, should a Christian designate any extra funds that could be applied to what some would consider lavish purchases toward mission work instead?

I thought this was a very interesting conversation. And for an individual, I don’t think there is any one right answer. Of course, Christian liberty says that we *can* spend the money on such things, but should we?

I think motivation is key here. Why do you want the handbag, (or other item)? Is it because you feel like you need a designer label to be “somebody?” Is it to show off your wealth? To make others feel jealous, or even bad that they can’t have such a thing? Obviously, if these reasons are the motivating factors in your purchase, you should probably rethink it.

But what if you simply like the handbag? Yes, you can just as easily like a $30 bag, but that reasoning works both ways–what if the bag that is your favorite, and will best do the things you need it to do, is the $300 one? What if you want to spend a lot of money on something that you plan on using for a long time? A quality handbag, for example, if properly cared for, can last for 10+ years. And if that’s the only bag you purchase in those 10 years, instead of buying a new cheap bag every year, (because the cheap ones do tend to fall apart), then the money spent is the same.

Another important factor is money. It seems like just about everything boils down to money eventually. Can you afford the handbag? Can you afford it, and still continue to give to church as you usually do? If you’re planning on taking money designated for offerings, and spending that on a bag instead, obvious mistake. But if you can afford the handbag in addition to your regular offerings, and maybe even in addition to other charitable giving, then it’s up to you.

So, in the end, it’s really up to the buyer, and it really has to do with personal convictions. Some people can’t spend money on themselves, even small amounts, knowing about the need that exists in the rest of the world. And that’s fine, as long as they don’t force those convictions on others who doesn’t hold them. If your conscience would be troubled by spending that much money on yourself, or spending in what you consider a frivolous fashion, then by all means, donate the money elsewhere.

On the other hand, if you feel no such convictions, if you’re happy with the giving that you do, and you can afford the handbag without any affront to your conscience, then by all means, purchase it. At the very least, you’re helping out the economy. As long as you’re not using your purchase to brag about the money you do have, or make others feel bad about what they don’t have, or what their convictions are, then why not? We have free will to make these kind of choices, and I don’t think that God is sitting around judging people based on the cost of their accessories.

And yes, for those who are interested, I would like to own a nice (read: expensive) handbag someday, and if the day comes that I can afford it, I’m certainly not going to feel guilty about it!

The Ironic Fundamentalist Hypocrisy Problem

I have been following a discussion this week on one of the message boards I frequent with great interest. It started with a member sharing her frustration over a VBS her children attended last week, because they were taught that if they didn’t believe in Jesus, they wouldn’t go to heaven, and then were encouraged to pray the “sinner’s prayer.” Now, as a Lutheran, I don’t subscribe to the whole “sinner’s prayer” theology, but I am confused as to what she expected her children to learn about at VBS, if not the need for a Savior. I was equally flummoxed by how many people agreed with her, and stated that they would be anything from offended to very angry if anyone told their children at VBS that only believers go to heaven (guess they wouldn’t have wanted their children in my VBS class!). This is a great example of why we shouldn’t ship our children out to churches that we are not in agreement with, no matter how fun their programs look, or how much free childcare we can get out of it! But I digress.

Anyway, the conversation took an interesting turn when various members of the message board started debating different points of theology, and why they would or would not send their children to different churches. This particular statement really stood out tome, annoyed me, and got me thinking about hypocrisy in the church:

You asked about Church of Christer’s belief about whether Catholics are Christians. I’ll answer that by explaining our definition of a Christian… In the Bible, we see multiple examples of people becoming Christians, and the common pattern is that they believe, repent of their sins, confess that Jesus is the Son of God, are baptized (fully immersed) for the remission of their sins, and then they live faithfully. I used to be Lutheran, and I had a Lutheran “baptism” as a baby. When I started studying the Bible as an adult, I realized that the “baptism” I had had as a baby was not what was described in the Bible. I had not believed (I was too young!), I was not immersed (as the Greek word means), I was not “buried in Christ”. I had water sprinkled on my head as a baby, and when I was in 5th grade I was “confirmed” (not found in the Bible). So no, I do not believe I was a Christian when I was Lutheran because I had not met the criteria for becoming a Christian (as I read in the Bible examples of how it happened). That’s why I chose to be baptized (fully immersed) about 11.5 years ago, at which point I believe I was “saved”. So yes, I consider myself to have been a Christian for 11.5 years, because I use a different definition than the general public (who usually defines it as someone who believes in Jesus – I have no doubt that Catholics believe in Jesus.)

There are so many things wrong with this quote that I don’t even know where to start.

OK, yes I do. How about the fact that when she talks about her real “conversion” experience, she keeps using the pronoun “I.” This whole conversion experience is all about her, which shouldn’t really surprise me in this self-centered society, but is still contradictory to basic Christian beliefs.

Second, and the true ironic problem with this theology, is the opinion on works. These are the same people who will criticize Catholics for works righteousness, saying that they’re too focused on what they have to do to get into heaven, and saying that while they may believe in Jesus, they’re not really Christians. And yet, these particular fundamentalists don’t seem to realize that they, too, are basing their salvation on works. Look at what she says here…”I realized, I read in the Bible, I chose to be baptized, I was immersed, I was saved…” These are all statements about what the believer has done to secure her salvation–not a single mention of Christ’s saving work in her life!

Now, I realize that part of the issue I take with this mentality is the fact that this particular person used to be Lutheran…and then goes on to explain why Lutherans can’t possibly be Christians, according to her new, “correct” theology (and I will admit that her use of quotes around the word Baptism in regards to her first, Lutheran Baptism really angers me). But I also hate hypocrisy, and it annoys me to no end that Christians who hold these kind of beliefs can’t see how disingenuous they’re being. Sure, Catholics, (and Lutherans, by extension), aren’t “real Christians,” but the reason they’re not is because they haven’t done things the right way. Sounds like works righteousness to me.

I wish fundamental Christians could realize just how much they have in common with Catholics, after all…maybe it would take their self-righteous attitudes about baptism and conversion down a peg.

Basic Christian Library

I thought this was a cool list of books that a Lutheran Christian should read/have in their library. I’ve found quite a few titles on there that I haven’t had the chance to read yet, so now I have so new material on my “to-read” list.

Basic Christian Library | Lutheranism 101.

I wish they had included a category for music–at that very least I think that Martin Luther: Hymns, Ballads, Chants, Truth and Heirs of the Reformation should be added as a staple of the Lutheran library–we all know how much theology is found in our beautiful hymns!