Over New Year’s I went to Anaheim, Calif., for the Foursquare NextGen Summit ’07, an event that challenged students to imagine how they could change their world, specifically by embracing orphans, stopping human trafficking and fighting poverty. At the same time I was reading the book Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. Both of these were work projects, but they fit together nicely.
Both had a powerful theme of doing practical things to make the world a better place. Both were about putting Christianity in action (is there any other way? Sadly, yes, the church seems to have found an inactive path).
And now I’m wrestling with what these things practically mean for my life. (And I’m really just rambling here, so don’t expect much to be coherent.)
Piper’s book especially is a challenge. He rails against anything that wastes your life. What exactly is a waste may be up for debate, but for Piper it’s all about glorifying God (and this all gets into his Christian hedonism, which I don’t exactly understand, so I won’t pretend to). So spending your retirement playing golf and collecting sea shells (his classic example) is a waste. And so is sitting down with your family every night to watch hour after hour of TV. Spending loads of money on a luxurious car would also be a waste of money, and thus a waste of your life.
And that squares nicely with the challenge at the Foursquare NextGen Summit ’07. While no one made this specific challenge, I couldn’t help but think about how I spend my money in the face of orphans, slavery victims and the poor. It’s so ingrained in us to think nothing of spending money. And our society makes doing anything else seem completely radical.
The entertainment mindset in the Western world is another area for potential waste. I love entertainment (hello, I’m a writer!), but I wonder how much of it is a waste. How much relaxation and stress relief do I really need (those are the standard reasons I give for justifying my entertainment)? No one sits on their deathbed wishing they’d caught up on the latest season of 24.
As with most things in life, I’d guess it’s a matter of finding balance. But I think our culture is so eager to be entertained that we have a skewed view of balance. Watching an hour of TV a day may not seem like much (only an hour!), but that’s actually quite a lot. 7 hours a week, 30 hours a month, 365 hours a year (multiply that by your hourly pay for a glimpse of what it actually costs you).
But I don’t have an answer. I watched the series premiere of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles last night, and I’ll watch part two tonight. I’m just struggling with the questions and wondering how much I’d be able to give up. And maybe that’s the solution–not giving it up, but being able to give it up. Seems like that’s what fasting is about. Maybe for Lent this year I should be giving up something real (gulp).