FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What if you can't afford to live 100% fairtrade or 100% organic? There are many people who could never afford to do this.
First of all, we know that God knows our hearts. He knows our every intent in every action- and that includes our purchasing decisions. He knows when we purchase out of greed and convenience, and he also knows when we purchase out of true need. Creating hard and fast rules (ahem- legalism) isn’t the solution we are suggesting via this website (nor do we think any particular label is actually perfect in its own right).
That said, based on what we know about scripture, and how Christ himself told us that the greatest commandment in the law was, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” We as Christians, regardless of our financial standing, must be absolutely committed to these commands and that extends itself to what we buy and how that affects others.
Therefore, if we are held back by our ignorance to the world/businesses around us, let us seek truth and wisdom. If we are held back by financial means, let us seek creative means to make ethical purchases.
We have created this website because we know intimately
how difficult it is to find truth about the things we consume and
how difficult it is to make lifestyle changes based on these truths
But we also believe in a mighty God and a Gospel that is for EVERYONE. The gospel command to love our neighbor is not just for those who can ‘afford’ to love their neighbor. Perhaps we ALL need to re-order our priorities; not to figure out what we can afford, but rather to seek to obey the Lord FIRST and THEN sort through other needs and wants.
We also believe that the Lord has blessed us with a great deal of resolve, creativity and community. Using these skills and blessings we can do things like: go without, make things ourselves, lend and borrow things from friends, save up for expensive goods, repurpose things we already own, shop second hand, etc. And as you exercise these muscles, you will find that they get bigger! God is good!
What if there isn't a version of a product that meets all of the standards we wish it would?
There will be times when a perfect product cannot be found. Maybe it is only fairtrade, but not organic. Maybe the best we can find is sustainable, but not fair trade. Maybe we can't find anything that even remotely has a sustainability or worker's rights consideration. In those times, it is important to consider whether we really need it (see imperfect scenarios question below). The next thing to consider is whether we can buy a version of this product that has already been made/used (Goodwill, Salvation Army, eBay, etc.). The last thing to consider is how we can ensure that this is the best version of the product we can find. It is important to do a ton of research because other's lives and families depend on us.
Have you heard about stories of families having to sell their children because they lost their job when people switched to buying fairtrade?
I have heard of sad stories like this. They are not to be dismissed lightly. Maintaining the current system of work and pay maintains the status quo where when someone loses their job, they are not in a good enough financial place to take care of their families until a replacement job could be found. The current system is not right. Remember that for every job lost, one job is gained. That job allows the worker and their families to be pulled out of poverty and into a lifestyle where they can afford healthcare, healthy food, and education for their children.
Shouldn't this be linked to gospel outreach?
We believe that this is an integral part of the gospel. Jesus loved us so much that He gave everything for us. How can we not do the same for other? In fact, for most of us, the only thing this will cost us is money, which we can't take with us after we die. Why not show the world the love of Jesus through our actions and say, "I love you and I want to pay you fair wages. If you think that I love you a lot, wait until you meet my Jesus."
I grew up differently. I was taught to be frugal.
I grew up embracing frugality as a worth cause as well. I considered luxury to be something that other people might indulge in, but it was bad stewardship. Everything changed when I started to consider what God's goals might be for my stewardship. Most people equate stewardship with running a good business: I will be financially disciplined, I won't buy luxuries, I will attempt to get the highest value for my money, etc. However, in God's economy, how much I get doesn't matter as much as how I get it. Remember, His commands: Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. If those are the returns he is looking for from His money, then the value I achieve is loving my neighbor. The question should be: how much love for my neighbor can I get with God's money? This totally re-wrote the equation for me. For example: If I buy a pair of mainstream running shoes that are reasonable quality at a good price, I am getting a lot of shoe for my money, but virtually ignoring my neighbor. However, if I buy an expensive pair of running shoes that are fairtrade certified, and made of sustainable materials, I am getting a lot of loving my neighbor for my money.
Considering that there are many imperfect scenarios for making out purchasing decisions, what should we do?
The way I see it, the order of best to worst goes like this:
1) Buy fairtrade, organic, and sustainable.
2) Buy something that meets 2/3 of the criteria in #1.
3) When something meeting that criteria cannot be found, buy used.
4) See if I can come up with an alternate way to meet the need without a purchase, like borrowing for a time
5) Make it myself from sustainable materials.
6) Ensure that my purchase is made in a country with solid labor laws, minimum wages, healthcare, etc.
7) Purchase product that doesn't meet any criteria and do more research to avoid having to make this purchase in the future.
Why should we spend God's money to save the environment? Isn't it all going to be redeemed later?
The environment is a closed system, meaning that everything that happens to the environment stays in the environment. We all know stories of industrial pollution, or lead in water lines, or algae blooms, etc. Because we and our neighbors live in the environment, everything we do to it affects the people who live in it. My decision to eat meat produced with growth hormone, antibiotics, etc. affects my neighbors because all of those substances eventually end up in the local water supplies. Pesticides used in food production ends up in the ground and on the food. Non-sustainable goods produce by-products that have to go somewhere and they end up affecting other people. I now consider anything that is produced through my consumption as affecting my neighbor.
I can't pay full price.
I hear ya. I love a good deal. The question is, do you want the companies doing things the right way to make profit and expand, or do you want to provide less support and keep these companies small and struggling against their larger competitors. In the stewardship redefined economy of loving our neighbors as our reward, supporting companies who do things the right way, by paying full price, will multiply the positive impact of God's dollar that you spend.
Who is my neighbor?
The exact same question was asked of Jesus. Jesus' answer was to tell the story of the good Samaritan. Most people misinterepret this story, however. We assume that the definition of "who is our neighbor" is someone that we encounter based upon the fact that the good Samaritan ran into this person in need and took care of them. That is not the correct conclusion because that is not the answer that Jesus agreed with. Scripture says it like this: Jesus said, "Which of these three [referring to the pharisee, the scribe, and the Samaritan] do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" He said, "The one who showed him mercy." And Jesus said to him, "You go, and do likewise." Based upon this, if our neighbor is someone we encounter, then all three people would have been this man's neighbor. However, being a neighbor to someone is not defined by proximity or contact, it is defined by how we treat one another. The Lawyer who asked the original question, "And who is my neighbor?" was looking to exclude people so he could feel justified by how he had treated others. He was looking to shrink the circle of who he needed to care about, whereas Jesus asks us to enlarge our circle, claim more people as our neighbors by treating them as such. So, who is our neighbor? Everyone.
Love Your Neighbor Blog