Fist fights, toilet paper, and the grand problem with our cultural narrative

10 years ago, my home city of Brisbane was hit with a devastating flood. Within days, thousands of people formed a volunteer army and helped total strangers clean mud and debris out of their homes. I remember walking the streets helping and being amazed that although there was grief due to the loss, there was also a sense of joy in the goodwill of the community.

Fast forward to this year. We were provoked with scenes of people literally getting into fist fights over toilet paper in grocery stores. I saw one clip of a guy who had at least 10 bags of rice and, having taken the last bag, refused to share even a single bag with an elderly woman.

Crisis don’t just create problems. They reveal. And there has been an ugliness to the story of our generation that has been revealed. I’ve found it confronting.

I know I felt embarrassed.

Is that what we have come to?

Aren’t we better than this?

Have we become so selfish as a society compared to other generations that at times laid down their lives for their fellow countryman?

What came out when the pressure was on?

The answer is clear: There is a problem with our cultural narrative.

So, what is this problem in our cultural narrative? It is the grand failure of consumerism when it is decoupled from generosity. If our driving worldview is simply more, get, hoard, gain, keep – we are missing something crucial. If the end of my story is just my own needs, I will never discover happiness.

That path is flawed. There must be a better way.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 6 specifically not to hoard up treasures on this earth. He calls us to a different way. It is a way that focuses on a bigger picture – to serve others, make a difference in our world, and to be selfless.

Consumerism only works when balanced with generosity.

The only antidote to our cultural stronghold is to give not to gain, not to get, not for more, give for a mission bigger than you, for people outside of your family, to a cause that is greater than us all.

Generosity is not palatable. It confronts our selfishness. But I’m willing to be confronted.

I want to write a new cultural narrative – one that takes personal responsibility and initiative to be generous, serve others, and live for a story that is bigger than just my own needs.

Generosity is the start of a new path.

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