February 15, 2008

Goodwill and Church Cookies

Posted in Christian culture, Commentary at 8:15 pm by Matt Porter

ChurchCookiesOur church is having a 50’s-themed Valentine’s dinner tomorrow. In a rare attempt at not being party poopers, we stopped by a couple of secondhand stores to see if we could find period-appropriate clothing. Unfortunately, our trip yielded nothing appropriate to wear (apparently people were smaller in that decade). As my wife commented, while we couldn’t dress like the 50’s, we certainly could have redecorated our house like the 50’s. Her statement gave me two questions to think about:

Why do we give away our junk? Why do we feel good about giving it to someone else?

Both of those questions have more to do with the attitude we have toward our stuff than about the actual giving. Two more questions should help clear things up:

If what we’re giving away is really junk, why are we giving it away? If it’s not junk, why are we replacing it?

While there are good answers to these questions (especially the second one), there are also a host of bad answers. Our culture has two widespread attitudes which these questions point out.

The first question addresses this attitude: “I’ll never wear it, because it’s two years out of style; but someone else might want it!” (The problem is with the first half, not the second.) This is called the Church Cookie attitude. Our pantries are stocked with Double Stuf Oreos, but we buy generic Chocolate Sandwich Cookies for the church dessert social. They’re good enough for giving away, but not for personal consumption. The root problem here is valuing ourselves more than others, rather unlike Philippians 2:3-4:

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.

These verses are a far cry from the typical American attitude about our possessions.

The second question touches on the attitude that consumption is innately virtuous. Commerce is the primary activity of our culture; most of our social interaction occurs in the context of the exchange of money. Incumbent politicians love to talk about the strength of the economy. Elections have been won and lost on the perceived state of the national pocketbook. We are frequently exhorted to keep purchasing to keep the economy going. Somewhere in the hype, we have lost sight of the fact that money is a tool. Like swinging a hammer, spending money is neither good nor bad of itself. Morality is not based on the tool, but the use to which it is put. We are not justified in buying anything we wish simply because we can afford it. Might does not equal right, whether politically or fiscally.

As Christians, our priority should not be to surround ourselves with the nicest possessions. We may not have to live life as simply as Christ and His disciples did, but we should all be willing to. That willingness starts with cutting the ties that bind us to our things. We cannot serve two masters; do we serve God?

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matt. 6:19-21)



  1. Lisa said,

    1. Where did you get the picture of the yummy Oreos? Makes me jealous….

    2. Wow, you get philosophical about Goodwill trips. I never thought of it in quite that way, although I admit I do sometimes feel a little guilty about some of the things I drop off there. But it does make me feel more virtuous than just throwing it away – after all, “someone might really *need* it….” Hmmmm.

  2. Matt Porter said,

    I get most my pictures off Stock.XCHNG, a free stock photo site. Most the photos are royalty-free and restriction-free. I didn’t actually have any Oreos here at home.

    No Oreos were harmed in the making of this blog post.

  3. Lisa said,

    cookies, Cookies, COOKIES! That’s all I see when I look at your site! Get a new post up, will ya?!!!

  4. Matt Porter said,

    I’m starting to sense that you need to confess your unholy desire for Oreos. 🙂

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