Jesus Versus the Red Starbucks Cup?

woman drinking coffee

Jesus Versus the Red Starbucks Cup?

You and I are called to be the Lydias and Tabithas, the Pauls and Silases, the ones who show up in the most polarizing places, tearing down barriers, freezing sin, and brewing love in the name of Jesus.  

In 2019, I discovered that I have clinical Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and one of the four branches of OCD is formally called Mental Thoughts and Taboo Rituals—a.k.a. Religious OCD. Most sufferers step into this disorder as a result of religious abuse and trauma, which I am all too familiar with.  

Because of religious trauma, I sometimes fight grace, wondering if my tiniest moves and mistakes are etched in a heavenly stone, possibly forgiven by God, but never forgotten. Needless to say, when Christmas rolls around, a deep, hidden piece of my spirit wonders if I’m wrong for purchasing a Starbucks “holiday” drink, now infamously referred to as the “red cup”.  

Most Christians are familiar with Starbucks’ rather staunch stance on keeping “happy holidays” at the forefront of their cheer, neglecting the power that comes from a simple “Merry Christmas!”. Knowing their stance, is it wrong for me, a firm believer in all of Christmas’ eternal worth, to actively purchase their products, keeping their name and brand at the top of culture’s beverage reverie? 

To be honest, I believe this is a gray space. After all, franchises weren’t exactly a thing in Jesus’ sandals-and-stone time. Instead, we see Jesus sharing His time’s iconic beverages and meals with both priests and prostitutes. Again, not exactly a hard “yes” or “no” answer here.   

However, I did a little digging throughout the New Testament, notably, after Christ had ascended and the early Church was plowing the foundation, the actual “rules” for modern Christianity. Taking notes, I discovered a few businesswomen in the Bible who seem to clear the gray space, allowing me to glean fresh ways to approach the 2021 marketplace with Christ-honoring intentions:  

1. Lydia the Clothmaker 

One of the biggest lies my religious trauma taught me was that it was an inherent sin to have money—let alone love money. While the Bible is specific here, stating that the love of money is the foundation for jealousy and a vicious, selfish sort of evil (1 Timothy 6:10), I also coupled that concept with possessing any extra amount of money that could support hobbies, travel, and activities that didn’t necessarily offer the world any spiritual benefit.  

Yet, Lydia’s business was booming. This. Lady. Had. The. Money. If it were 2021, she’d be the CEO of her company, no doubt. Lydia sold purple cloth, a true treasure in her Mediterranean world. Purple dye for these materials held a special value because access to purple dyes typically required another live species, either tiny purple mollusks at the Mediterranean Sea’s floors, or from a variety of viable, purple-based plants (NIV Bible Blog).  

Lydia was in the middle of money, making a profit amidst the culture’s hippest trends, and yet, she also holds a special title, a title most scholars lovingly bestow on her: the first European Christian convert—ever. After meeting Paul and Silas in Philippi, she receives the Good News and begins to use her business, both her brand name and finances, to support missionaries and new converts. In fact, she’s also believed to be the first European Christian to open her home for worship services.  

The initial state of Lydia’s business didn’t dictate or deter the final outcome. Instead, God used Paul and Silas to weave the truth into her heart, allowing her business to become something greater than she ever could have imagined, let alone planned and executed. 

I think this is how I see Starbucks—as a business I can step into, much like Paul and Silas, weaving love and truth into its core. Perhaps, if I show up with an honest smile, look the barista in the eyes, show patience when the coffee shop is buzzing, and offer a warm “Merry Christmas!” before leaving, “Merry Christmas” might hold a new, special place in their heart. Maybe the “Christ” in Christmas will finally be Something they see as gentle and good, Something, or Someone, worth pursuing after all.  

2. Tabitha (also commonly known as Dorcas) the Seamstress 

Tabitha, also referred to in many versions of the Bible as Dorcas, was a fan-favorite of Peter’s, her servant’s heart a biblical-era trend. Similar to Lydia, Tabitha was in the clothing business, but her brand looked less like Gucci and much more like Goodwill. Tabitha was known for sewing clothes for the widowed and poor in Joppa (also a Mediterranean-based city).  

Unlike Lydia, Tabitha wasn’t known for her wealth. However, she was known for her why. Regardless of brand names and financial numbers, Tabitha and Lydia both adhered to why their businesses mattered. They understood that Christ’s mission meant showing up for people—regardless of social status or stature, whether walking away with handstitched smocks or pricey purple scarves. People mattered because Christ said so. Lydia and Tabitha’s work mattered because Christ said so. End of both stories.  

Meanwhile, one of the most powerful parts of Tabitha’s story doesn’t come with any sort of business bonuses, but rather, once she fell ill and died, so many of Joppa’s citizens rushed to find Peter, demanding that he visit. Peter answered the call, not only visiting with Tabitha, but through the power of the Holy Spirit, he performed a miracle, bringing Tabitha back to life in Jesus’ name (Acts 9:36-42).  

This miracle not only birthed an even bigger, more beautiful image of Christ’s power, but it allowed Tabitha to return to her humble work, caring for the most basic needs of her community’s lowliest.  

In light of Starbucks’ less Christian-centered themes, I still believe Christians have space to take up in the middle of those coffee shops. Why? Because people, regardless of societal perspectives and voting tendencies, matter. Christ wasn’t holding Lydia’s rich and famous customers accountable, nor was He casting shame on Tabitha’s non-profit benefactors. No—he was holding Lydia and Tabitha accountable for how they loved on people of all types: 

The snobby rich type: Lydia’s big and fancy folks who would likely drink a Starbucks Peppermint Mocha just because they could afford to blow $5 on 6 ounces of coffee. 

The possibly ex-criminal, did-something-wrong-to-end-up-this-poor type: Tabitha’s more quiet and humble folks who were likely so hungry and thirsty that regardless of its franchise themes would still gulp down any Starbucks drink available.  

People, regardless of their motives, deserve love. They deserve Christ—because they don’t deserve Christ. Funny, huh? Our value holds weight because a good, good God saw that we weren’t worthwhile, and because of that very thing, He stepped in and showed up in the most radical way possible: giving up His only Son.  

Our worth is wrapped up in the fact that we aren’t worthy. Without being unworthy, we wouldn’t have access to Christ’s worth. In short: our worth is inseparable from the fact that we aren't worthy. 

With that in mind, the Starbucks baristas are worthy of love. Even the Starbucks CEO is worthy of Christ’s love—not because the Starbucks brand and all its folks actually deserve it, but because Christ loves them in the face of their not-so-Christmas spirit.  

You and I are called to be the Lydias and Tabithas, the Pauls and Silases, the ones who show up in the most polarizing places, tearing down barriers, freezing sin, and brewing love in the name of Jesus.  

And I’m not sure about you, but for me, this looks a whole lot like walking into a Starbucks coffee shop, taking note of the barista behind the counter, and reminding them in the simplest of ways that Christmas matters because they matter.  

Wishing each of you a true, pure, hopeful Merry Christmas, 

Peyton Garland  

 Photo Credit: Unsplash/CandicePicard

Peyton Garland is an author and coffee shop hopper who loves connecting people to a grace much bigger than expected. Her debut book, Not So by Myself, was promoted by Former White House Press Secretary Dana Perino and Endorsed by TED Talk speaker and creator of the More Love Letters Movement, Hannah Brencher. She lives in Colorado with her husband, Josh, and their two gremlin dogs, Alfie and Daisy.

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