Some more from Albert Hsu's The Suburban Christian
The opposite of consumption is production. It takes far more time and energy to create something than to consume something. Creativity is the first dimension of God’s character revealed in Genesis. He then quotes Andy Crouch, who has noticed that we (as Christians) have critiqued culture, and we have also tended to copy culture in our Christian subculture. Mostly we consume culture. But all of this is a far cry from God’s intent, that we fulfill the creative mandate and exercise our energies to create culture. As we think of areas of interest to us where consuming can be replaced with creating, and God leads us to exercise our creative gifts, we may sense the joy he intended for us to experience in the midst of human creativity.
Generosity, at its most basic form, is giving things away, divesting oneself of possessions or money for the benefit of others. Richard Foster says that every once in a while, we should look through our belongings to see what objects we most cling to, what has us in its grip. And we should then give them away. Hsu then asks, what can you divest yourself of, for someone else’s benefit as well as your own?
There are two ways to get enough: one is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less (G. K. Chesterton).
One rule of thumb is to try to live at a standard of living that is below others in your income bracket. As a Christian spiritual discipline of simplicity, we can try to live below and under what we can afford. The more we exercise self-discipline and voluntary simplicity, the more resources we will have available with which we can practice generosity. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve took and ate fruit that was not only forbidden, but unnecessary. One pathway to simplicity is to evaluate our consumer choices through the lens, “Is it necessary for me to own this item?”
Hsu closes this chapter by referencing 10 guidelines for practicing simplicity from Foster’s Celebration of Discipline. Here are a few:
1. Buy things for their usefulness rather than their status.
2. Reject anything that is producing an addiction in you.
3. Develop a habit of giving things away.
4. Learn to enjoy things without owning them. (This is something that I am beginning to learn. Some small steps, even though I have an allowance for books, I have begun checking books out at the library and reading them).
5. Develop a deeper appreciation for God’s creation.
6. Reject anything that breeds the oppression of others.
7. Shun anything that distracts you from seeking first the kingdom of God.
As you can see, so much of what Hsu writes does not necessary only target suburban Christians, but all believers who have more than enough.