Who can forget the spring of 2020? The top 10 searches on Amazon were toilet paper, face mask, hand sanitizer, paper towels, Lysol spray, Clorox wipes, mask, Lysol, masks for germ protection, and N95 mask. For the first time in our lives, we were buying things we’d never bought online before. Amazon was our savior.
Amazon sets the terms and conditions by which we sell, buy, and much more. This virtual empire of recorded purchases owns the largest collection of consumer desire. Anyone that can anticipate and supply all our needs according to the riches of fast delivery must be a god. In his book, Laudato Si, Pope Francis calls us to put technology “at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral” (available on Amazon). Well, I haven’t read it, but I like the idea of “another type of progress.”
So, does Amazon have a theology?
Amazon theology is guided by four principles: customer obsession, passion for invention, commitment to excellence, and long-term thinking.
Principle 1: customer obsession. With one click, it’s like Christmas every week! Gifts wrapped in cardboard boxes make life better, brighter, easier, smarter, cooler, more productive. Nothing wrong with that. So why would Jesus say, “Be careful and guard against all kinds of greed. People do not get life from the many things they own” (Luke 12:15)? What can we do to be more “careful”? Make simplicity a virtue. Simplicity as virtue does not mean straw hats, suspenders, and long beards. Virtue thinking necessitates ongoing discernment informed by an awareness of Christ and his kingdom. What we are after is an understanding of simplicity that heightens our love for God, people, and creation. Exchange customer obsession with a more virtuous preoccupation.
Principle 2: a passion for invention begins with customers–their values, needs, desires–and works backward to create things that will benefit them. Nothing wrong with that—except that it makes us the center of the universe. What if we began with Jesus—his values, needs, desires—and work backwards to deliver the outcomes he wants? “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (Isa 43:19). The Lord has a passion for invention and invites us to participate.
Principle 3: a commitment to excellence. The dictionary defines excellence as “the quality of being outstanding or extremely good.” However, there is a reason that Jesus said, “No one is good—except God alone” (Mark 10:18). Our commitment to excellence is actually a commitment to Christ. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord” (Col 3:23).
Principle 4: long-term thinking. It’s hard to argue against convenience, greater choice, innovation, and lower prices. But when Goliath exerts tremendous pricing and margin pressure on small businesses, little guys file bankruptcies and stores close. I want to encourage you to pause and pray before you click. Long-term thinking must have broad considerations. “Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too” (Phil 2:4).