Saturday, July 20, 2013

How Christ Compelled Me to Stop Eating Chocolate

Lately I have been paused on the topic of "Does God really care about that?!?!" with situations, events, politics, world news, the mundane of life, my shopping habits, how I spend or save money, reading material, dietary choices and dating.

Does God really care? REALLY?

If I spend $50.00 on clothing for myself, as long as I give an adequate tithing amount? Is it about tithing? Or is it about giving? About generosity? About not being greedy? About having enough and being content with what I have?

If I buy a candy bar from a company that is known to source from farms that utilize slave labor? If I have diamond earrings that cannot be certified "conflict free"?

Does God actually care? Am I chalking him up to be over obsessed with the miniscule parts of human life? That what I eat for breakfast, or where I go to the gym, if I go on three dates with a guy I don't intend to be serious about? Are these things that matter at all to the God of the entire universe, who sees the WHOLE WORLD and all the important events happening right now. Is he at at concerned with these tiny things?

And, the answer I believe right now (allowing myself all permission to change this belief if I feel to do so in the future!) is:

Sometimes.

I think God sometimes does actually care if you wear a specific outfit. I believe that sometimes God really does care if you buy fair trade chocolate verses one that potentially was involved in the oppression of someone else. I think God is sometimes more honored in the extra $100.00 spent to certify that no one was killed for your diamond. I think God sometimes actually cares how you spend your money, how you spend your free time and what newspapers you read.

Some might suggest this makes God a micro-manager. But I don't think so.
I see that more as human laziness; an attempt to cop-out of actually making an effort in the small things. Consider: can you or can you not chose to honor God in the small elements of your life? Will one option bring God more glory over another?
If the answer is yes, then surely, since God deserves the glory, he must be interested that we would chose whichever brings him the most glory or better advances his kingdom.

And maybe, if I personally start honing in on the little things, the 'mundane of life' and seek to honor God in the small elements, then as a natural result, I will be also honoring God in the big. A life re-ordered, re-directed, recognizing God in every action I commit.
That sounds nice, but it isn't what motivated me, brought these questions to mind. Fear was.

Fear of Judgement. (dun dun dun.....)

This might seem a bit over the top, but honestly what got to my heart and remained in my mind was the image of standing before God Almighty at the end of time. In what most Christians have some concept of: standing before God and facing the wrong-doings of our life on earth. Having to come forward with an explanation for our actions (and ultimately, only able to throw up our hands and plead the blood of Jesus as our sacrifice).
But when I consider this and I look at my life, I wonder if God will name me innocent or guilty when I knowingly purchased an item that was manufactured and produced through oppression? Will God conclude that I was therefore involved in the oppression? Will he say that I knowingly supported such oppression because I financially backed it through my spending?
And that, quite frankly, scares me.

How can I rationalize that God cares if I have consensual sex with another adult prior to marriage and then question if God actually cares if I purchase clothing I know was made in a sweat-shop by a fellow humans in inhumane, unsafe and unjust working conditions?

How can I have any affiliation, contribution or participation with something that oppresses a fellow child of God and then plead "well, I am not the one in charge of it!" or "it's going to happen if I buy it or not." It's very, very easy to twist that same logic to say that horrific things shouldn't be opposed or are just going to happen whether we personally participate or not.

My concept of money has shifted over the years. Not only in the area of stewardship, but considering the idea of 'support' and 'investment'. If I pay taxes to the government or authoritative body, do I agree with how those taxes are used? the programs that are funded?
In that same vein, if I voluntarily spend money at a store, what makes me select that store, or that item? Do I support the business practices and the mission of that store? Because essentially, spending money there means that I do support it.
The same with buying an item - do I support that company? Do I want them to thrive and advance? Because my money helps them grow as a business.

I am not so naive to think that I, as an individual person can negatively influence major corporations or big businesses doing something I disagree with. But, I believe that I can positively influence the smaller business that I believe are doing something important and good in the world.
While it's not much, I do believe I should do so.
Because if I am to be a good steward with my money, I ought also to be a good steward in how I spend my money - in what I invest in, so to speak.

And this concept has changed how I shop.
From the tiny, local fruit stands of family-owned businesses to other companies like "Sole Rebels" for my shoes. Because I do have an option of where I spend the money God has blessed me with, and I think that I will be held accountable for how I spent it.

It does matter to God. It's his. And if my life is to be lived in His name, I need to act in all ways, in all areas of my life, to ensure I am embodying the Kingdom of God and bringing glory to God.

This is not about buying only Christian-made items, or only fair-trade items. It's more than that. Its making God Lord of my life in every tiny, minute area. Because I am starting to think that actually matters to God.

Written all across the Bible is God's heart for the oppressed, he raises up people to champion for the downtrodden, frees entire peoples from slavery and captivity, and he fights for the rights of the poor.

Clear in my mind is the memory of a few evenings ago, sitting with a friend while he ate ice cream and trying to explain why I had declined to join him in eating the chocolate-vanilla twist. I explained that some chocolate is sourced from plantations that use abducted children to work the fields or that the cocoa farmers who don't use slave labour are not paid adequately for their produce and that I only want to eat chocolate that I know without a doubt was sourced ethically and sold fair-trade. He looked at me as though even the subject exhausted him.
And then he said something that surprised me: "I think you're just being selfish."
????
"You just want to feel good. You do this so that you will feel good about yourself. You want to look good." And concluded that perhaps that was the motive behind all good deeds, volunteering, anything one might term 'self-less': actually a selfishness - desire to feel good. That all humans, regardless of religion, were just selfish people who did things for themselves.
My words were a reaction: "Think about your mother who adopted you - she took care of you because she loves you, genuinely loves you. People can do things simply out of love and goodwill."

His response seared me: "If everyone really loved other people like that, without selfish motives for them to feel good and just helped each other like you say they should, then my biological parents would not have been put in a position to have to send me away so that a Canadian woman could adopt me."

If everyone loved each other, he wouldn't need to be adopted.

He is right.


I get slightly 'messed up' in a good, convicted sense, every time I consider this conversation. A boy, with two parents that loved him, but could not provide for him and all his siblings allowed him to be adopted. And while his adoption is beautiful, it speaks of the depth of injustice and pain in the world. It makes the more and more convicted about fair-trade, about assisting small, family businesses, about purchases and donations that go directly to the people being serviced. It changes how I buy, and maybe, it changes me, too.

And so, on that note; that is why, to the best of my ability, I will no longer eat chocolate unless it is fair-trade. I've been heavily convicted about this. I mean - we're talking about potentially having to answer for this to God himself someday! And, as I learn more about the conditions and injustice around cocoa farms, especially verses the beautiful, good and helpful companies that are fair-trade. $3.00 difference actually means a great deal of difference.
The title is for attention- I still eat chocolate, but only chocolate I know was created without using oppression.


That is how Christ compelled me to stop eating (un-traceable) chocolate.
What about you? is there some small, almost-random seeming area of your life that you've altered because of your relationship with Christ, because of the Gospel, because of re-arranging your life in-line with Kingdom of God? I would love lists and tweets, statuses and discussions about "Christ Compelled me to _____". that raises questions, brings explanations, starts discussions.

Because maybe, SOMETIMES they are not random things to God.
Sometimes, God really does care.



And for the record, knowingly completely incriminating myself; I own a pair of Converse.
I've got a long, long ways to go in this respect.