Has anyone ever told you that shopping is a spiritual gift? Maybe they said shopping is your spiritual gift.
Even though shopping is not one of the spiritual gifts listed in the Bible, it is a tool we can use to build the Kingdom of God.
I learned this principle in Thailand.
Most of our ministry work took place after 8:00PM; so our days were free. Our team leader suggested we use that time to develop relationships by becoming repeat customers in shops and restaurants. I was skeptical, but I decided to give it a try.
Over the next few days, I purchased jewelry from women who no longer work in the sex trade industry. I bought souvenirs from vendors I knew by name. I learned how to say good morning in Thai from the barista who served me iced coffee and pastries.
I became a connoisseur of Indian food because the restaurant owner told me about her dishes and how to eat them. I laughed until I cried with the Thai masseur who left bruises on my arm during my foot massage. (This is what happens when you mix a Thai massage with a fair-skinned American girl).
My purchases became about more than money exchanging hands. They became about people I loved. The products and services I bought hold more value because of the memories they represent and the prayers they inspire.
I discovered that one of the best ways we can impact people with the love of Christ is through shopping. Not because we are supporting someone’s livelihood but because we are building relationships that allow us to express Christ’s love through our actions, attitudes and words.
Making an impact through shopping isn’t limited to short-term mission trips. It isn’t even limited to buying products from companies that support a cause. Shopping can have the same impact in our communities. We just have to shop with purpose.
After coming home, I decided to practice what I learned. Unfortunately, I couldn’t go shopping everyday. (My husband didn’t buy the whole “I need to shop every day because it’s my spiritual gift” line.) However, I could shop at the same stores, at the same time, with the same employees. My impact became deep instead of wide.
How I learned to shop with purpose:
I started by evaluating where I spend the most money and time: Meijer
Next, I determined when I shop: Wednesdays mid-afternoon
Then I picked my favorite cashier: Ginny*
I decided to check out in Ginny’s lane every time I shop- even if there is a line. While I wait, I talk. I talk about the weather, about food, about working at Meijer.
Over the past few years, Ginny and I have gotten to know each other. She knows my name. I know a few things about her.
I haven’t mentioned Jesus’ name a single time, but I have mentioned her name to Jesus several hundred times.
Taking the time to build relationships where you shop may not feel important, but it is.
I am building a relationship with Ginny that says I see you. It says you matter to me.
Because of this, I trust that when the things of God come up, Ginny will receive what I say with an open heart. Because of our relationship, she will know she isn’t a notch in my Christian belt. She is a person I care about.
Learning to shop with purpose is one of the most important things we can do to share Christ’s love in our communities, but we must decide to do it. Our busy lives will miss these opportunities if we aren’t intentional.
Where do you shop most often? When do you shop? Which business owner, clerk, or service provider can you build a relationship with? Share your answers in the comments, then get out there and go shopping.