According to the clear example of Scripture, shopping at a store that sells goods that do not directly require the purchaser to sin in the transaction of or consumption of, those goods cannot be sinful purely because of the outside affiliations of the seller.
In the book of Nehemiah, the nation of Israel is clearly seen trading with their pagan neighbors, (Nehemiah 13:16) “Also men of Tyre were living there who imported fish and all kinds of merchandise, and sold them to the sons of Judah”. The Israelites are reprimanded in this same context for trading on the Sabbath, not for trading with outsiders. In Genesis 42:1-3, “Jacob saw that there was grain in Egypt, and Jacob said to his sons, “Why are you staring at one another?” He said, “Behold, I have heard that there is grain in Egypt; go down there and buy some for us from that place, so that we may live and not die.” 3 Then ten brothers of Joseph went down to buy grain from Egypt.” What part of Egyptian culture or religion was consistent with a Judeo/Christian ethic? They were as idolatrous and immoral as pagan cultures get. Later Jacob and his sons (Gen. 46:6) “took their livestock and their property, which they had acquired in the land of Canaan, and came to Egypt.” Was Canaan a Jewish nation that reflected God’s law? Think of a patriarch - - Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon, Nehemiah, etc., they all traded goods with wicked nations. Yet at no point did God ever rebuke or judge them for this practice. He judged them for becoming like their neighbors, not for trading with them.
In Luke 7 Jesus praises the centurion for his great faith in believing Jesus could heal his servant from a distance (vs. 9), but the centurion is never rebuked for his service to Rome. The Roman Empire sanctioned the murder of all the male children that were two years old and younger (Matt. 2:16) for fear of the coming of the prophesied Messianic King. Rome also required imperial worship (worship of emperors) of most of its subjects (although Jew’s were excluded due to their influence). The Roman government was absolutely wicked and the centurion is never commanded by Jesus to cease his role in their military.
Lydia the “seller of purple” was “a worshipper of God” from Thyatira (Acts 16:14). One of the trade guilds in Thyatira manufactured dyed clothing (trade guilds are similar to the idea of industry specific, trade unions). Every trade guild in Thyatira had a pagan, patron, god or goddess associated with the production of their respective product. But, Lydia was both “a worshipper of God” and a “seller of purple”. Even with the well-known pagan association with her industry, what she sold for income and her worship of God were not in conflict.
So am I encouraging you to shop at Target? Not at all! As I said at the beginning I have stopped shopping at Target because of their restroom policy. Than why write this? Because my concern is not where you buy your groceries, it is how you use God’s Word. However noble you may think your cause is or however noble it may actually be, you cannot say something is sinful unless Scripture does. Who defines sin? Obviously God does in His Word. Than when you say something is sin, you do so with a “thus says the Lord” authority. If God defines the term and then you use it, your use of His term better match His definition. Sin is breaking God’s moral law. God’s moral law reflects His moral character. Therefore when you say something is sinful that He doesn’t, you are saying something untrue about His character. Be very, very, careful! As a pastor there may be certain things that I would prefer my congregation not do (pastor’s often have concerns about music styles, etc.), because it would make shepherding them simpler. But, I don’t get to impose my concerns upon their theology. It is a fearful thing to misrepresent God in order to prove a point. If you shop at Target you’re not sinning. If you choose not to shop at Target you are also not sinning, but if while speaking on God’s behalf you say things that contradict His Word, you are sinning.
by Austin Hetsler
Pastor of Christ the Rock Church