So, I’ve been doing this Bible study that is rocking my world. Do you hear me? It’s turning everything I know on its heels. I haven’t been this disgusted by our wastefulness since I went to Ecuador on a mission trip in June 2010.
The Bible study is called “The 7 Experiment” by Jen Hatmaker. It’s a seven-week study that explores seven different areas of wastefulness: food, clothes, possessions, media, waste, spending, and stress. Basically Jen takes one area per week, she gives options explaining how we can fast in that particular area, and then we explore what the Word has to say about it. (Jen has also written a book that takes these same seven areas but focuses on one per month instead of one per week.)
The main objective of this little experiment is to open our eyes to our wastefulness as Americans and to figure out how we can transfer our pursuit of the “American dream” to a more Kingdom-oriented mindset, focusing our time, energy, and resources towards doing the Lord’s work. We, as Americans, are in the top 4% of the world as far as wealth is concerned, but what are we doing with our money? I don’t want to be the rich young ruler who couldn’t part with his possessions. (Well, I wouldn’t mind being young, but that’s for another day…)
You know, I’ve been trying to teach my kids that obedience means obeying all the way, right away, and with a happy heart. Isn’t that how we, as adults, should obey the Lord? And if we know we’ve been instructed through Scripture to do something but don’t do it, or if we know we shouldn’t do something yet still do it, then we are being disobedient. Lately, I’ve been very convicted about our disobedience regarding our resources.
Week 1 of the Bible study focused on food, and y’all, I’m just gonna come out and say it. I’m addicted to food. And I’m not even joking. For Food Week, I decided to eliminate all processed foods from my diet and eat only fresh fruits and vegetables and lean meats. And it was HARD! I’ve always known that I’m a comfort eater, but until this particular week, I never knew how much comfort I derive from food. (Apparently, not having my daily intake of Nutella makes me a mean mama.) But when we looked at the list of foods the Lord provided for the Israelites to eat in Leviticus chapter 11, I was suddenly aware of all the processed and fake foods that line our grocery store aisles. It’s no wonder we, as Americans, are obese, sick, and cancer-ridden. And then when we looked in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 about how our bodies are the temple of the Living God – whoa! I’ve read that passage and heard it taught a thousand times, but until now, I’ve never realized that what I put in my body could be considered “destroying the temple.” I mean, I take care of myself. I’m thin and I try to exercise at least four times a week. That’s good enough, right? But verse 17 says, “God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” I’m pretty sure that ingesting gross, fake foods and hormone-injected meats would be considered destroying the temple. Whew! So now that I know the truth, I have to be more responsible, not only for what I put in my own body, but also for what I feed to my children.
I’m currently in the middle of Week 2 – Clothing Week. It’s not really something that I thought would be difficult for me. For this area, I had to pick out seven items of clothing to wear for the week. I chose black gym shirts, a white running shirt, a gray fitted t-shirt, dark denim skinny jeans, a white embroidered shirt, tennis shoes, and black flip flops. Clothes aren’t really my thing. I don’t buy crazy amounts of clothing for my children, and I believe I’ve mentioned before that I pretty much live in gym clothes. So this week hasn’t actually been too terrible. (Of course, it is only a week. I wouldn’t want to wear only these seven items for the next six months or anything.)
I think I’ve come a long way with regards to my clothing. In the past, I tended to dress for other people, in order to impress them or to get them to like me. That was part of my “people pleasing” disease. But probably over the past three years, I haven’t really felt the need to dress to impress. I think a lot of my attitude change can be attributed to my deeper reliance on and relationship with the Lord. I don’t need to “keep up with the Joneses” when it comes to what I or my kids wear. It’s actually quite freeing to not worry about it. Because seriously. Does it really matter whether I spend $65 on some Toms or $35 on some Bobs? Um, no, it doesn’t.
But as I stood in my closet and looked at the 196 articles of clothing (not including socks, pj’s, undergarments, etc…), I realized that I could probably feed an entire African village for a few years on what I’ve spent on clothing. And do you know what? I don’t wear even half of what is hanging in that closet. And the sad thing is – two weeks ago, I donated three huge garbage bags full of clothes from my closet. It was eye opening for me, but at least I’m heading in the right direction.
Listen to what Isaiah 3:14b says: “The plunder from the poor is in your houses.” This is huge! And it just about knocked me over when I read it. The money I’ve spent on clothes that I never wear could’ve been given to the poor so they could have food to eat, shelter to live in, and clothes for their children so they could attend school. The plunder from the poor is in my house. MY house…
This thought process goes against everything we believe about our right to pursue the American dream. But what if we, as the American church, actually took a stand? What if we drew a line in the sand and said, “No more. I don’t need another pair of shoes. Or a new shirt.” Whatever we deem as a pressing “need” is probably not a need at all. It’s just another first-world problem. And people are dying out there while we blow our money at the Gap. (Or Target. sigh)
For the past few months, I’ve been praying that the Lord would make my heart break for the things that break His heart and that He would kindle in me a Kingdom passion. I think this Bible study is beginning to fuel that passion. I love that He answers our prayers.
I’m sure I’ll be updating more in the future as I tackle five more areas of excess. Stay tuned…