By: Judy L. Jernberg

The May issue of The Lutheran features an article called “The Socially Responsible Thing.” Because many of you don’t subscribe to our national magazine, I’ll comment here. Oregonians are pretty good about recycling and using reusable bags. Goodwill, St. Vincent de Paul, and Salvation Army stores abound. The Bethesda Clothes Closet puts your gently used clothes to good use. Bethesda folks support fair trade products, thanks to the Renns…their coffee and chocolate is so much better! But do we really know which stores and companies treat their employees well, that recycle, use resources wisely and establish ethical practices? Do we shop locally as much as possible? (Bi-Mart, Winco, Costco) When we buy cheap clothing items do we know whether sweatshops in Asia made them? It is not very hard to find out. Google is global. Do we know where are pension and other funds are invested? That we can make choices? We can invest with a purpose.

  • Before making a purchase, ask: Why do I want to make the purchase? Do I need it? Does the purchase reflect the values I hold and the life I want to live? Does it support the well-being of others?
  • Consider purchasing items secondhand. Thrift stores support the local community and prevent usable items from ending up in landfills.
  • When you buy new items, buy them from companies with positive labor and environmental practices.
  • Purchase fair trade products at Bethesda and other local businesses.
  • Choose alternative gifts when appropriate: the gift of your skill, a donation in someone’s honor or a membership in a local museum or arts organization.

Fewer things is still much more than enough.

Our everyday purchases do affect the well-being of others. We need to pay attention to whether to how we spend our time and money. How often do we make “unthinking” purchases and then regret them? Much of our cultural discontent is based on irresponsible debt and consumption. Decisions about what to wear, what to eat, and whether to purchase a new car or even a lawn mower are important. We follow “paths of least resistance,” doing what those around us do. We don’t see how our purchasing habits can support suffering because it’s not where we are looking.

Sin is not only unkindness to those around us but also unrecognized harm to those we never meet. As people of faith, we know we are called to do justice for all, which includes that we be intentional in our care of our natural world.

Luke 12:48 “to whom much is given much is required.”

Matthew 7:12 “in everything do to others as you would have them do to you.”

Keep a “money log” for a month:

How many purchases were “needs” and how many “wants?”
What could be left out and not affect your quality of life?
What does your spending say about your faith and values?
What might you change?