Jesus’ spiritual disciplines & the ethics of consumption

In reading Matthew 6, I noticed Jesus’ commentary on three “spiritual disciplines” that were apparently in current practice (though not necessarily well): giving, praying, and fasting. It seems to me that consumerism is the number one spiritual issue with the vast majority of the American church, as well as the American culture. While Jesus said to “Go and make disciples of all nations,” the American culture says to “Go and make consumers of all nations.” Who’s doing a better job at their commission, the church or the culture?

There are two levels to explore, the disciplines themselves and the spirit in which we practice them. The disciplines that Jesus highlights in his commentary (plunked in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount) address our modern consumerism. Give: Rather than consume resources, share with others. Pray: Rather than consume religion and spirituality, submit oneself to God. Fast: Rather than consume according to our demanding appetites, rely on God’s power and grace to master ungodly and unbalanced appetites. Further, the spirit with which we are to practice our acts of devotion to God is one of humility. Who is our audience? This is the aspect of our devotion that elevates the issue of consumerism. To use our acts of devotion to God as a means to consume approval and admiration from others is the most dastardly brand of consumption of all.

Perhaps this is why Jesus followed his commentary on the proper practice of spiritual devotion with a teaching about our treasures: “but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Mt 6:20-21).

Which commission is revealed to be more privileged in my practice: Jesus’ Great Commission or American culture’s commission? The difference may lie in my giving, praying and fasting.