Growing up in the United States comes with a fare share of privilege. We live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Around the world a recent study (@http://rankingamerica.wordpress.com/about/) ranked the United States #1 in spending on clothing and footwear per year. We also ranked #1 in spending on hotels and restaurants per year. On spending for recreation and culture, things like concerts, we ranked 5th. Sadly, we rank at the top when it comes to how much garbage we produce as a nation (we rank 3rd out 17 peer countries).
We arguably spend more per capita than any other country in the world. With the staggering amount we spend it should not surprise us that out of 31 peer countries (including: Japan, Korea, Turkey, Mexico, the Netherlands, Canada, Germany and many others), we rank 3rd in poverty. Mexico ranks #1.
We are a consumer driven country! Our reputation is one of materialism and personal gain. We are known for spending more than we make. Many of us live in debt because of credit cards and loans. It seems living with and dying with debt does not hinder us from getting what we want and living in comfort. Have we chosen our comfort and desired lifestyle over service and the needs of others? Have we selfishly decided to go after what we want, rather than what we simply need? Have we let our comfort distract us from the sacrificial life Christ modeled for us?
As followers of Christ, how do we reconcile being citizens of privilege and wealth to the life and words of Jesus? As youth leaders, are we living in front of our students a life in pursuit of service and sacrifice, or have we too become consumer driven? Maybe we don’t personally feel we are wealthy with a lot to give, but are we seeking a path of responsibility and faithfulness to God with what we do have? Are we prepared to lead a life of selflessness rather than selfishness?
The teens we work with are being raised in a country that encourages them to make money to spend money, ON THEMSELVES. Spending/consumer habits start early. According to staticbrain.com, the average teen spending in a year for and by American teens amounts to 208.7 billion dollars. In a consumer driven culture it is important to share the words of Jesus with our teens. Lets encourage them to think about the needs of others before their own material desires. Here are some verses you can share with your youth group/teens to think about the words of Jesus. You might also like to share some of the statistics listed at staticbrain.com on teen spending.
16 Another day, a man stopped Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”17 Jesus said, “Why do you question me about what’s good? God is the One who is good. If you want to enter the life of God, just do what he tells you.” 18-19 The man asked, “What in particular?”Jesus said, “Don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as you do yourself.” 20 The young man said, “I’ve done all that. What’s left?” 21 “If you want to give it all you’ve got,” Jesus replied, “go sell your possessions; give everything to the poor. All your wealth will then be in heaven. Then come follow me.” 22 That was the last thing the young man expected to hear. And so, crestfallen, he walked away. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and he couldn’t bear to let go.
34-37 Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?
41-44 Sitting across from the offering box, he was observing how the crowd tossed money in for the collection. Many of the rich were making large contributions. One poor widow came up and put in two small coins—a measly two cents. Jesus called his disciples over and said, “The truth is that this poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together. All the others gave what they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—she gave her all.”
Discussion Questions: After reading the words of Jesus together, discuss the following questions with your teens.
What stands out to you about these words of Jesus?
Do you think Jesus is as concerned about our material needs as we are?
How should we seek to live?
I encourage you and your students to take a personal inventory of the heart. As followers of Jesus, lets think about whether or not we are headed down the path of consumerism or servant?
If you would like to use this blog post as a lesson I’ve come up with 8 introductory questions you can begin the conversation/lesson with.
True or False-The total number of teens in the United States is 25.6 million?
True or False-The total annual spending by teens in the US in 2012 was $6.5 Billion?
If you would like a complete list of questions and this blog post in a lesson format, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, subject: A”ME”rica lesson.