“You have increased the number of your merchants till they are more numerous than the stars in the sky, but like locusts they strip the land and then fly away.” Nahum 3:16
“Your merchants were the world’s important people. By your magic spell all the nations were led astray.” Revelation 18:23
Perhaps we should seriously reconsider our current arrangement with the merchants of this world.
Have you noticed that everything is for sale? Not that everything is on sale or a bargain. I’m not sure that there is one place outside of the wilderness that we can go to get away from sales advertising. It’s on our clothes, our phones, our mail, our roads, our stadiums, our books and magazines and newspapers. It’s on the internet, the radio, the t.v. – even public television, on the trains, the buses, the subway, the sidewalks, stuffed into our front doors, texted to us… everywhere, all the time. “Advertising” is the definition of ubiquitous.
But wait, there’s more! Because we not only accept it, we want more: whole days dedicated to buying (black friday) and seasons of buying (the “holidays”). Still not enough. We invent reasons to buy: end of year, beginning of year, spring, summer, fall, winter, ground-hog day, president’s day, valentine’s day, white sales, halloween, mother’s day, father’s day – there really is no end to it.
We are told that it’s good for us, for our country, for the world and the entire economy of everywhere. We are assured that we will be smarter, richer, more popular, prettier, more rugged, cleaner, more handsome, safer, edgier, more fulfilled, happier, more joyful, thinner, fatter, fitter, sexier, younger, more informed, more ecological, more stylish, more healthy, more famous, more popular, and just all around MORE if we would only watch, read, follow, wear, invest, use, eat, drink, smoke, take, try, listen to, go to, upload, download, follow, believe, make, attend, drive, have our next heart attack at, and buy what they are selling.
“Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” He said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of thieves.’” Matthew 21:12-13
“It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed….” Luke 17:28-30
I noticed when I finished reading the Bible through last year that not a little is mentioned about those who buy and sell – the merchants of the world. Remember how the gates were shut against them on the Sabbath? There are multiple warnings to us about the accumulation of wealth and how hard it is to get into heaven with all that stuff. I’m guessing that there are no heavenly storage units to put it all in. I’m not even talking about all those who go without so we can have so much stuff that we have to build bigger places to store it all (which reminds me of Jesus’ story about the guy with the barns).
As I have watched the world drastically change, I have noticed that those who have a lot are becoming fewer and fewer while those who have little are drastically increasing. I can see how the blind desire to accumulate more has made a few richer, the majority poorer, and a middle class drowning in stuff yet still lusting for the latest, the best, the greatest, the newest. I believe we have reached a point where the Christians need to jump off this ride.
I say “jump off” because this demonic cycle is not going to slow down so we can ease our way off. We are going to have to hurl ourselves to the ground. Yes, the ground, on our faces, and become grounded again in our Lord and not in what we can acquire or attain. We are supposed to be following – no, emulating – the One who said:
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Luke 12:32-34
At this point you may be thinking that I am an alarmist, perhaps even a socialist or communist, because we live in a capitalistic society and all this is “normal”. So let us reason together: how can we both follow Christ and principles that declare that an individual’s worth is based on what they own? How is it a reflection of God’s love to prefer those who have much and disregard the lives of those who have little or nothing? How can we live a life of integrity and faith while using up the majority of the world’s resources for our amusement? What will the least of these say to us when we are face to face with them before Jesus?
The Good News is the antidote for the blindness, greed, and disregard within and around us.
“You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.” Revelation 3:17-19
What if we decide that we are not for sale?
“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to Me; listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David.” Isaiah 53:1-3