amplified

Here is my latest entry for Our Daily Journey.  It’s a thought that occurred to me, perhaps by the Spirit of God, as I attended Acton last week.

read > Matthew 12:22-37

“A tree is identified by its fruit.  If a tree is good, its fruit will be good.  If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad” (v. 33).

Despite the recent economic meltdown, most people would agree that free markets have improved the lives of billions of people.  We live longer and wealthier than anyone ever has, in large part because free markets incentivize us to create products that other people want to buy.  Entrepreneurs who knew that they would profit from their efforts invented vaccines, computers, microwaves, and indoor plumbing.  

        However, free markets are not an unqualified good.  They are simply the most efficient way to provide consumers what they want.  What markets can’t do is tell us what we should want.  If consumers want relief from the heat of summer, markets will connect them with the sellers of air conditioners.  If consumers want to get rich quick through games of chance, markets will supply them with casinos.

        In short, markets amplify whatever we are.  If you want to know who you are, look at what you buy, for what you buy is yourself writ large.  What is on your ipod, credit card statement, or television schedule?  The fruit you find there indicates what kind of tree you are. 

        Markets also amplify by enlarging our effect on others.  A medieval materialist would horde his gold and that would be the end of it.  But now, through the amplifying power of markets, a materialist who buys a behemoth home supports an entire industry that builds McMansions, and an immoral person who clicks on pornography encourages sellers to make more of it.

        Every purchase is a vote for the product we buy.  Every movie we see or book we read signals the market to make more of that.  If we choose coarse, banal, or risqué entertainment, our culture will flood the market with more of the same. 

No man is an island.  That has never been truer than now.—Mike Wittmer

more > Read Luke 12:13-21 to see how our choices amplify ourselves and Romans 14:13-15:4 to see how our choices may help or hurt others.

next > How might a “buycott” be better than a “boycott”?  Rather than draw attention to offensive items by noisily avoiding them, what if we banded together to publicly support the good stuff?

7 Comments

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  1. Mike,

    As always, good, challenging thoughts. Your quip on credit card statements hit me especially hard, since the very fact that I have a credit card statement says as much (if not more) about me and my stewardship (or lack thereof) than the things on it.

  2. Mike,

    I think it does not fit the “Daily Bread” philosophy. The traditional “spiritual” message seems to sneak up at the end and hit you out of nowhere. Maybe I Daily Bread has changed because more fundamental Christians would call this meditation “liberal.” It reminds me of Neil Postman’s and Jacques Ellul’s works. Besides the more basic ideas/critiques, your reflections are good and I think you need to strengthen the connection with Matthew 12:22-37 and “the fruit you find there indicates what kind of tree you are.”

    I think the larger difficulty is not to get people (at least thinking people) to realize what you have brought up, but to fight hard enough to escape this way of life. A culture is created by its people, so to escape its hold is next to impossible. Anyways just some thoughts.

  3. Mike, This sounds like something I would write – you are getting older. 🙂 Could it be too straight forward for the audience intended?

  4. Eric:

    This is for “Our Daily Journey”, which is RBC’s ministry to twenty and thirtysomethings. So they do want this to be a bit edgier and about issues that the younger generation may care about.

    I agree with you about the culture thing. I started reading James Hunter’s “To Save the World,” and I’ve realized there’s no hope in trying to change culture anyway!🙂

  5. No hope in trying to change culture? Nooo…. 😮

    This is very strong writing:
    “Every movie we see or book we read signals the market to make more of that. If we choose coarse, banal, or risqué entertainment, our culture will flood the market with more of the same.”

    If you’re interested, I was just part of a podcast episode on consumerism and how it affects Christians, often without them knowing it.

  6. I like the idea that every purchase is a vote. This is helpful in framing consumerism for my kids.

    But I think, because of the ginormous market that feeds into each little handheld device, it’s hard to sift through and find good votes, even if we do the hard work of knowing what is good for us to want.

    Just finding good reading material for my 12 year old to feed her mind is a full time job (she’s digesting about 1000 pages/week this summer!).

    I let her read a book that a friend loaned her last week, and we talked about how easy it is to acquire a taste for junk food, and how quickly it warps your thinking. One book, one movie, one song, one tv show… can be more significant than just one vote. It can lead to a whole crop of bad fruit.

  7. Shannon:

    There is an easy solution to your problem–raise “normal” kids that don’t like to read! You are right to point out the difficulties of raising our children–and the more we select good stuff for them the more good stuff the market will make.

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