Wednesday, 20 February 2008

On Beggars and Choosers

Modern capitalism is based on the manipulation of desire. We find ourselves a consumer society; one that has gone softly into a long good night in which guilt and fear prevail, and longing is dulled and re-directed. Our need to choose has been substituted with the much more glamorous privilege of choosing from.

Willingly, we have accepted the outrageous lie that individuality and personality may be satisfied by making consumer decisions. Our need for freedom is sublimated in the exercise of consumer privileges. That I may select from twenty varieties of toothpaste, or twelve movies, or four electoral candidates, appears as freedom. We have become convinced that choice need involve nothing creative: it is enough for us to merely select from an array of options.

Ideas, too, have been added to shelves of the grand marketplace in which we all live. Having succeeded in throwing off our need to seek and think and feel and consider, we have succumbed and contented ourselves with selecting entire blocks of thinking, based on processed and packaged philosophies, theologies, and belief-systems.

Consumerism creates the illusion of luxury, which is tied to the act of selecting. Since beggars can't be choosers, we must all be first convinced that we have no needs, only desires. We are all choosers with no real needs, but only the luxurious privilege of selecting the goods and the packets of theory that best match our personalities.

In allowing ourselves to be transformed from thinkers to consumers, we have been elevated from scrabbling in the dust of reality and experienced truth. Instead, we discuss theories that we have chosen to ascribe to, but hardly even understand. From trusting and experiencing a God that we can't see, we have gone to trusting what amounts to little more than popular opinion. Science has been unjustly discounted in the Christian world; but much of what is passed off as scientific truth in the secular world is only that portion of science which agrees with other socially and economically convenient truths. We toss around scientific arguments and other "facts" as though we aren't simply trusting those who purvey them; as though they have been researched by us; as though we deeply understand why they must be true.

We look for ideas that have been well-packaged, endorsed by appropriate authorities or celebrities, and carefully branded. I select and carry about my preferred brand of truth as I might a new handbag. It's a fashion statement; something that sets me apart and tells the world what type of person I am. Even we who call ourselves Christians want to think it's enough to believe that Jesus exists; that on that basis we will be acceptable to God. The demons themselves know that he exists!

Because you say, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked... (Revelation 3:17)

Truth is not something to be consumed. If I am to know it, I must first know my need of it. We are not, after all, choosers, but beggars, if we only knew it. The question is not, "Does God exist?" or "Who was Jesus?", but one that I may have a full answer to: "Who am I? What do I need?" If we can see the problem within that is utterly destroying us; which makes a mockery of all that is beautiful and true in us, then we know that, whether or not he exists, we need Jesus. That he is the only solution that matches our one great need. And if he does not exist, then there is no hope for us anyway.

The man who knows himself carried swiftly along a river that ends in a waterfall asks no questions about the rope thrown to him. He grasps it, because, though he knows not whether it may be trusted, he knows his problem. There is no shortage of solutions being bandied about by the philosophical and religious people of our world, and what can we know of their viability? If we know our problem, we will take part in no elevated selection of an appropriate solution, but a desperate grasping of what will meet our deep need.

Jesus Christ the Way, the Truth, and the Life.


joeyanne said...

And we do need. And we need to need. When we take away the need, we lose purpose. Is it any wonder we are surrounded by such depression?

I love that your posts make me use my brain and my intellect. They do not entertain me or make me cozy. They make me work and work is very satisfying. :)

bjk said...

Have you ever read Pipers Desiring God...I think you and he are saying the same thing and my brain is about to explode from the that's not true from my trying to 'understand' it and's not for me to fully understand?? Thanks for where you go and allowing us to follow

jennypo said...


Thanks for coming by. I haven't read "Desiring God", but there are a few other messages of Piper's that I've come across, and much of it resonates.

Our world is such a paradox. It is not simply that loveliness and horror co-exist; it is that they are so entwined, that I am filled with disappointment. It is only with a knowledge of the beauty of God paired with the destructiveness of sin that we can begin to make sense of the great tragedy we are a part of. And it is all the more a tragedy because we are not the worthless nothings we have been labelled as by last year's version of Christianity, but great and beautiful beings with terrible, gaping flaws.

What other version of "truth" explains the tragedy so evident around and within? None except the Bible.

Thanks for walking along with me and for letting me walk a little with you. I find it wonderful that the God we know is able to meet us both on our own ground despite huge differences in our experience, personality, age, culture... yet He remains unaltered by our various perspectives.

Robert said...

you are so eloquent in your writing. Amazing how for so long now our culture has been leading us not to think for ourselves but to let the *elite* who know and are qualified to think do so for us. I love how you show that we have 2 natures that are intertwined. Like Paul said, *thanks be to God Christ Jesus is the One who rescues me from this death* So glad to know you jennypo and share together.