26 August 2017

What's Wrong with the Laundry Philosophy, Part 1

There's a philosophy about life and serving God that's very popular these days, mostly among women (although some men hold to it, too). It goes double if they're married women, and triple if they're married with kids. I call it "The Laundry Philosophy."

It goes something like this:

You don't have to do anything special to serve God. Anything and everything you do counts. Washing clothes, cooking, and mopping the floor are serving God. If you're taking care of your spouse/kids, nothing more is expected of you -- your home and family is all that matters. Don't bother to wonder if you're missing out. An ordinary, mundane life is as good as any other. 

(Of course, I'm paraphrasing a little!)

Even as I write this, I hesitate, because I know so many people find this idea comforting. In all honesty it appeals to me a bit, as well -- especially at this particular point in my life where I find myself without a good outlet for "ministry" as such. But I can't deny that something about it just sits wrong with me, and I've learned, all too often the hard way, that when I have misgivings about a certain ideology, sweeping my doubts under the rug and going along anyway is a sin that will find me out. Every time.

So, what about it? Is the Laundry Philosophy legit?

I want to say first of all that I think it was formed with good intentions, as a sort of pushback against the idea that there is "important work" and "not-so-important work" in the Kingdom. On the contrary, we believe -- and rightly so -- that all of our life's undertakings matter. When we do everything to the best of our ability, we are imitating God, who does all things well. So, if you're cooking a meal, take the time and trouble to make it tasty. If you're building something or crafting something or even just cleaning up a mess, don't be sloppy. If you have children, be the very best parent that you can be.

The Laundry Philosophy says that it's perfectly okay stop there, though, and I don't think that follows. Why not? Well, for one thing, the world that God has given humans to be fruitful within and have dominion over is a much bigger place than just the 2,500 average square feet that our house sits on. In that world, there are many more people beyond our immediate family who are in need of kindness and care. What kind of place would it become if everyone only took care of their own, and never reached out to anyone else?

For one thing, that throws an awful lot of the population under the bus, especially people outside of the nuclear family (singles, widows, divorcees, childless, and the elderly, to name just a few). With whom are those people supposed to find their "inner circle", if everyone else is too preoccupied with their own families to bother about them? What about the needy ones by whom Jesus Himself is represented in Matthew 25 -- those who are in prison, those who are sick, those who lack basics like food and clothing? How does the Laundry Philosophy take them into account? Simply put, it doesn't.

And what about the Great Commission? "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." Go therefore. What does that mean? Well, we understand that it doesn't necessarily have to mean "Go overseas", but at the very least it should mean "Get out of the house every now and then", don't you think?

There's another saying of Jesus that I think is pertinent here: "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them." There's nothing particularly remarkable about providing for one's own flesh and blood. Pretty much every species on the face of the earth does it. But when followers of Jesus go out of their way to care for others, including the ones who aren't particularly deserving, and especially the ones who can't repay the favor -- that speaks volumes to the world about Christ and His love.

Fortunately, there are all kinds of ways you can do this. (And they don't all require leaving home.) You can invite neighbors or friends over to your house. You can volunteer at a homeless ministry. You can sponsor a child or pack Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes (two of my personal favorites). I don't make book recommendations very often (choosing the books one enjoys is a highly personal activity, in my opinion), but this one is too good not to share: Don't Hide Your Light Under a Laundry Basket by Jenny Rae Armstrong. If you want meaningful but totally doable ideas on how to do more good in the world, this book is gold.

I have more to say, but this post is already too long, so I'll save the rest for tomorrow.

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