I have been weighing - in a sad sort of bemused, "I really do not want to think about it" way - about the ongoing kerfuffle that is the Starbucks cup controversy. On the one hand you have group of Christians proclaiming that Starbucks has proclaimed "War on Christmas" while on the other hand you have a group stating that this is simply not the question and those who are offended are simply being overly hurt about a simple cup. There is a third group as well, those (Christian and otherwise) who state that it should not not matter what Starbucks does. Go act like a Christian (and depending on if you are a believer or not the answer varies what that actually means) and simply ignore the whole thing.
(You know I do not do politics or religious controversy on this site; trust me, this is not going where you think this is going).
For the record, I think everyone involved - every one of the three sides listed above - is acting like a damn fool. But that is not the point.
My point is really directed towards those who profess Christ. And I think it is a bit bigger than whether or not we should be concerned about a cup of anything, let alone coffee.
More directly, the question is whether we should be concerned about coffee at all.
The simple reality is that we are commanded to do good, to live out God's love and God's commandments, to demonstrate both His love and His purity. His purity, His commandments, are something which we as individuals have to live out before others. His love, we live out in the community around us.
And there are needs. This should surprise no-one. Serious needs, the sort of needs that the church of Christ should be uniquely qualified to address (we do, after all, have a relationship with the God of the Universe. He has been known to address a problem or two).
So the question is, how are we spending our lives, our time, and our money?
Are they dedicated to us? Are we so concerned about this here, this now, that we must meet our every desire? Has something as simple as fancy coffee become such a need for us that are willing to do battle over the cup it comes in?
I have to rank myself in this mess as well. I am far too concerned with my own agenda. I have my lists as I am sure you have yours: lists of things I want, places I want to go, things I want to do. All about me. All about mine.
C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity “I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare…If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us,… they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditures excludes them.” This, I submit, needs to be the starting point for all of our spending and charitable giving - remember it was the widow that gave all that Christ commended, not the rich that gave little.
What does this mean on a practical level? In a very embarrassing (or should be embarrassing) sense, simply start with the question "Do I spend more on _______ (fancy coffee, food, books, insert anything here) than I give?"
Hurts, does it not?
Is there something inherently wrong with Starbucks coffee? Not at all - but if I spend more on Starbucks than I give to the work of God (in whatever form), then I have a problem that all the complaining or inane words about "sharing the love of Christ over a Peppermint Mocha" will not wash away.
For me, what does that mean? It might mean something as simple as taking the money I would spend on Starbucks (not that I go there that often) or on a lunch and give it. Give it to the Church. Give it to the Christian charity of your choice. Consciously. Willingly. Silently. And hopefully.
Will this save the world? Quite probably not - if correctly done, the world will not know it was done at all ("Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing" - Matthew 6:3). But good will be done. And through the organization or Church, God will be glorified.
Does this mean I can never enjoy any of the things I would like? I do not think so - but it does mean I should act responsibly. Do I like coffee? Make it at home - if you are dying for good coffee (or so I understand) and want to help out some Brothers, try Mystic Monk coffee (do good, enjoy good). Or find a group (arguably for Christians, we should try to start with a Christian group and then work from there if we cannot find one) that offers the thing we want. It may be a little more expensive - but the expensive includes enabling them to the do the good we are called to do.
I do not know that my thinking is fully developed on this - and I will probably take a few more blog posts to get through this. But there is a root here, a root that needs exposing and pulling. I would argue this is a moment of great opportunity for followers of Christ. We can make a difference in a way that no-one else can. But we will hardly get there by either arguing over cups - or asserting that our needs trump the requirements of the charity commanded us.