Mid Winter Series – Coffee

Readings for this week July 29 – August 2
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – Coffee, Coffee, Everywhere

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – James 2:1-4

Coffee is such a huge – and lucrative – industry that it is only to be expected that it has some huge problems associated with it (this is also true of a large number of other products and industries, but let’s just look at coffee for now). As followers of Jesus we need to make sure that our actions are not supporting or enabling anything that cuts across the core values of the kingdom of God, and do not contribute to the exploitation and dehumanisation of our fellow human beings created in God’s image. Checking the coffee we buy to make sure it is ethically grown, sold and processed is one thing we can do.

The main issues attached to coffee are labour exploitation (see also tomorrow’s reading), environmental degradation and wasteful packaging. Coffee is one of the leading industries in its use of child slaves, as well as its use of child labour, debt bondage, wage theft and unsafe working conditions, the latter usually related to pesticides and chemicals. Also, coffee was traditionally grown in the shade under rainforest canopies, but many farmers have been encouraged to move to sun-grown coffee, which has seen huge swathes of rainforest cleared to make way for these higher yield crops. Finally, 10 billion single serve plastic coffee pods go into American landfills alone each year. But there are coffee companies now committed to producing ethically grown and packaged beans, to the non-exploitation of workers, and to sustainable environmental practices.

Question to Consider
Do you know where your coffee (or other drink/product) comes from?

Prayer
Lord God, give me the eyes to scrutinise my life and my actions and the wisdom to know how to change and the courage to do so. Make me a better citizen of your kingdom. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – The Struggle to Earn a Living

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Proverbs 22:16

The majority of the world’s coffee beans are grown by small independent coffee farmers, each growing on a couple of hectares of land. 25 million such famers produce about 70 per cent of the world’s coffee beans. They in turn sell their crop to coffee companies that then process the beans into coffee and sell it to consumers. Of course, these farmers are trying to earn a living, feed their families and support their communities. But the power traditionally lies with the coffee companies. If, for example, it costs a small coffee farmer between US$3.50 and US$4 to produce a kilogram of coffee, but the international coffee price (the price that companies will buy from the farmer) is set at only US$2.50, the farmer loses out.

For a long time this was how the system worked (and not just for coffee). As David McKernan, founder of Java Republic wrote, “The truth is, the coffee growers of today are not much better off than the thousands of slaves forced to develop this huge commodity by the colonial powers of the 17th and 18th centuries. The historical crimes of our predecessors are not just an issue of the past. The highly unethical treatment of coffee growers continues today.” Various Fairtrade organisations are now supporting the farmers by committing to minimum coffee purchase prices that guarantee a living income for the farmers. This has allowed a greater share of the multi-billion dollar coffee profits to go to the farmers and their families, with its knock-on effect of allowing greater access to education, health care, etc., and greater investment in communities.

Questions to Consider
What does ethical kingdom living look like? Why?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, speak to those with economic power over others, whether CEOs or consumers. Guide them to decisions that benefit those struggling to provide for their families and communities. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – Seeking the Kingdom First

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Matthew 6:33

Because of the vast, globe-spanning, inter-connected nature of our economic system, actions both big and small are all part of the same system, in one way or another. Whether the smaller scale decisions of individual consumers and citizens, or the larger decisions of multinational companies, what we do on one side of the world affects what happens on the other; what we do in our lives influences and changes what happens in the lives of people thousands of miles from us, in completely different circumstances. Because of this inter-connection, we need to be more mindful of how our actions, big and small, affect others. As followers of Jesus, we especially need to ensure that the kingdom values we espouse will withstand not just the scrutiny they may get in our everyday interactions with our neighbours, but also the global impact they have.

Overturning injustice, freedom from slavery, striving for equality, and a sustainable environment are all signs of the kingdom. When our desire for these things grows we know we are in the presence of God’s kingdom. But we need to open ourselves to the constant transforming presence of God’s Spirit so that our desire for these things will grow; where the human meets the Godly and is changed in the process; when God’s heart grows in us and is manifested in our lives in an unmistakable way. We need to seek God’s kingdom first, and make sure our lives are beacons of God’s kingdom ahead of everything else they may be. The kingdom has to be first. Either we seek the kingdom first, or we don’t seek it at all.

Question to Consider
What does seeking the kingdom first mean for our big and small economic decisions?

Prayer
Almighty Father, help me see the ways, big and small, in which I can join with your coming kingdom in transforming lives both near to me and far across your world. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – What I Pay Versus What It Costs Others

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 John 3:17

The cheapest price. The biggest saving. The best bargain. These seem to be the main considerations thrown at us when we are thinking of spending our money. Advertisers appeal to us through the attraction of a cheaper price, a bigger saving. We are pressed to make sure we save, that we pay the cheapest price, that whatever happens, we get our money’s worth. But perhaps we need to ask ourselves: are others getting their money’s worth? Will the purchase of this item – this t-shirt, that phone, this cup of coffee – result in others in this world, responsible for putting this product in front of me, getting their money’s worth? Am I, in my purchases, looking at the transaction through a kingdom lens? Am I looking at the path the item has taken to get to me, or am I just asking what it’ll cost me?

Because, if we are honest, looking deeply at who pays and what it costs others will no doubt cost us more in some way, and, more often than not, if we were to take this seriously, it will cost us financially. Perhaps we will end up paying more for some things; maybe we will end up switching brands or companies – or even away from ‘brands’ altogether. And it will cost us time, the time taken to find out more, to see who is affected, and how. The ease, convenience – and cheapness – of consuming the way we do needs to be held up to the compassion, fairness and welfare that the kingdom of God demands from its citizens – and demands its citizens fight to achieve for others, especially for those in no position to fight for themselves.

Questions to Consider
What does sacrificial kingdom living look like in a global marketplace? How is your wallet a repository of God’s redeeming grace?

Prayer
Gracious God, give me a greater hunger for justice and equality and greater vision to see the places where I can make a difference. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – What Do You Believe?

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Job 26:7-14

There are two questions that stem from all of this. Do we actually believe God is big enough and capable enough to have something to say about the current economic, social and environmental imbalances plaguing the world? Do we actually think it is possible for our human economic systems, financial institutions and societies to be placed at God’s feet, and to be redeemed by his kingdom power, and renewed into entities that serve the wellbeing of everyone in every society? Do we think what we label “spiritual realities” have any relation at all to our conduct in the marketplace? Or is everything just too damaged and messed up to ever be used for God’s purposes?

The second question follows on from our answer to the first. Are we actually prepared to offer our lives – our entire lives, every thought and action – as a channel through which God can redeem every part of our world, restoring people and places, redeeming structures and institutions, and transforming people and societies? Do we believe things can actually change, and that God is calling us to lead that change through the power of his Spirit? Do we believe that such change is just as equally carried on through our small daily words and actions at work, at school, at home, in the marketplace, online, as it is through larger scale action, group initiative, and institutional change? Do we actually believe in God’s power to change us? Do we genuinely believe things can change? Will we genuinely offer ourselves as agents of change?

Question to Consider
What is your view of God’s power and his will for this world we share?

Prayer
Lord God, come to us and change us, transform us; make us see the true redeeming power that you have poured out on this broken world. Show us the true possibilities inherent in your love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)