Yesterday Rachel and I took the kids up to the Calgary Auto Show. We did it last year and it was a blast – the kids enjoyed checking out the back seats of pretty much every vehicle that was unlocked, we got a few random bags and other swag and entered to win a few contests which we inevitably won’t win. Ever since Rachel and I got into Top Gear a few years ago, we’ve also become car people and just enjoy seeing things and how the industry is advancing and changing.
A highlight is of course seeing the fancy cars and exotics. Lotus, Ferrari, Aston Martin, Lamborghini, Porsche, Bentley, Rolls Royce, BMW, Mercedes… even some of the cool offerings from regular manufacturers and the concept cars. They’re amazing. They’re works of engineering art. They’re also often symbols of power, greed and ego.
I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about the intersection of art, communication and justice (so much so that I’m thinking about writing a book about those things some day). Everything we do communicates something, whether it’s the clothes we wear, the visuals in our churches or even the cars we drive. I think we have to wrestle with that in the context of justice and what we’re called to as followers of Christ.
It’s a difficult area though, and I think it will always be until the kingdom of God fully comes. On one hand, owning a vehicle that is luxurious (and expensive!) points to wrong priorities. Aren’t there better ways to help people and share the gospel in it’s holistic form with that money? Tony Campolo once asked a group of people if it was a sin to own a BMW (see this awesome article written a year after I was born). That’s a very real thing that we all have to wrestle with. Is it a sin to own a nice house, or even nice clothes? It’s not always black and white, and if it were I think we’d all be guilty of the wrong thing. In the car world, Mercedes are known to have led the way for safety features in the automotive industry for many years and also statistically stay on the road longer than any other vehicles because their owners value them and take care of them differently. That’s undeniably a good thing – being safe and not not filling landfills. Isn’t there also something good about offering gainful employment to a group of people who build such products and good in the creative design and thought that goes into designing them?
I’m not suggesting that followers of Christ should ever neglect doing justice and giving our resources of time and money to help the poor as we’re only just stewards of anything we have. I think owning a crazy exotic car is mostly excessive and I’m not sure I’d want to answer to God on my use of his money on something like that someday. I love the creative and amazing ways that in our day and age we can know so much and help so easily. Give to Compassion or IJM or your local food bank or the family that you know needs some help. Care for the orphans and the widows. Follow Jesus’ example and live a life that reflects the love of God.
Aside from all of the wrong things these fancy cars communicate, there are a few right ones. Beauty and creativity are very much a part of the kingdom of God, and I’m glad that not everyone has to drive a Prius or an F150 (turbo charged station wagons for life). Being an artist and one who creates as part of providing for my family has made me think about it a bit differently though, and it’s something to wrestle through. Wrestle with this tension in all areas of your life. Think deeply about how we use our money and how we can bring glory to God. Don’t find excuses to be excessive and treat yourself to things, but see the hints of creativity and originallity as something that will be refined and made fully right in the Kingdom that has come and is still coming. If you’re going to err, err on the side of giving too much too others and not enjoying the good things for yourself as much. But embrace beauty. Even in things with mixed signals, learn to celebrate the good and be drawn to the great engineer, artist, and creator.
There are hints of God’s image in us seeping thorough everywhere. Even in a fancy car.
Good thoughts, bro! I like that you use the word “wrestle” so much here because it (what constitutes “fancy” and “excess” and “generous” and “sacrifice” and “necessary” and “unnecessary”) is certainly something where most of us have a lot of internal tension if we’re honest with ourselves. Do you think your recent trip to the DR has got you thinking more about this stuff too? I’ll never forget coming back from Guatemala after the trip in Grade 12 and feeling nauseous at the sight of all the big box stores we drove past in Burlington – but within a year I went back to shopping at those stores with no guilt or concern. It’s so hard to know our own motives fully and even then to know how to act. I do like the idea that when we were little, Mom and Dad took us to dog shows for fun, and now that you have a family of your own, you take them to car shows! What will it morph into for the next generation?
Thanks Dave, I wrestle with these questions, too, and have applied a mathematical formula to help guide my car purchases. Turbo wagons! I landed a twin turbo wagon myself (literally, I guess, from Japan on a boat).