As Lent slogs on, I am learning more about my desire to purchase things; the overall picture is not flattering. A new GMC SUV zoomed past me this morning on Telegraph Canyon. It was a boring grey, rather boxy and uninspiring. Yet, I noticed a paper license plate indicating it is brand new. I thought, I wonder what the owner of that new vehicle saw in it. Oh, they must have gotten a good deal. Yes, the art of the good deal. Going back to my un-Lenten purchase of a fancy stainless steel, touchless open, kitchen garbage can, it was a good deal and I wanted to get it before the sale ran out (or before someone else took mine). As my readers know, I have resolved not to buy anything new during Lent to confront our pervasive advertising culture and to step back from competing with my neighbor. Advertising makes us feel in competition with one another. At the heart of this competition is the art of the good deal. It’s a good deal if everyone else bought it for X price; but, if you can get it for less than X everyone before you is a chump and you are one savvy shopper. So it boils down to a lie the ego buys into, purchasing makes you happier and will make you better than others.
When I was selling audio/video devices, people would ask for “a good deal.” One shopper, interested in a particular product that was so popular we could hardly keep it in stock, asked for a bargain and announced, “I only buy things at a discount.” I asked, “Why do you deserve a better price than everyone else.” He huffed and walked away. That is his rule of life. I wonder if he shows people around his house and announces how much of a discount he received for each item without realizing he is showing off to the very people he is competing with.
Speaking of good deals, I am the guy who reaches past the first gallon of milk to get the one behind. I look for the newest tag on a loaf of bread and search for the freshest carrots. I justify my actions because I have seen how much grocery stores throw away in expired products. Yet, this searching may be a result of my competitive shadow side. Ego again? In most cases, the first item I touch is just fine.
Have you ever found a seat on an airplane and then wondered how much each person paid for their ticket? Knowing my shadow-side, I would like to hear what everyone paid so I could see how I rank. I do not think we need to institute a communist style pricing structure – I am simply exploring my need to get a good deal and how my ego’s need can get in the way of loving my neighbor as much as myself.
This Lenten practice is causing me to explore areas of myself I’d rather not look at. Nevertheless, my shadow-side is known to Jesus; and he loves me despite my consumeristic competitive tendencies. St. Paul wrote that we – you and I – were purchased by a price from God, therefore, do not get enslaved to others. (1 Cor 7:23) I’d add that Paul says we shouldn’t become slaves to the good deal, or the competition it takes to find it. Jesus didn’t look for the best deal when he bought us, nor can we produce a result worthy of the purchase. Yet, because of God’s Grace, we are loved and accepted for who we are. No bargaining, competition, or comparison is required.