It is indeed ironic that on the days immediately following the public holiday of Thanksgiving which emphasises the virtue of contentment, we are encouraged to indulge in the vice of covetousness. ‘Black Friday’ and ‘Cyber Monday’ are approaching fast on Friday 23 and Monday 26 November 2018, and for many an insatiable appetite for more goods is being whetted through relentless advertising campaigns. The shopping frenzy is now so fraught that shoppers form queues days in advance to ensure ready access to the goods they believe they simply cannot do without. Fights now break out with increasing regularity over who reaches an item fast enough or who holds what position in the queue. There have also been known to be stampedes resulting in injuries or death.
Retail therapy or anxiety?
To gain a proper perspective on stuff, it is vital to recognise that each item we buy will lay some claim over our lives. We will have to invest precious time and energy both using and maintaining these items. Not only do we have limited time but we have limited space. Ironically, the more we accumulate in our homes, the more they steal the light. Also, a cluttered home makes for a cluttered mind. Our appreciation for what we have begins to diminish as we struggle to focus on, or even notice any one thing. We then spend more of our precious earth time looking for stuff we know we have, swear we bought but just can’t remember their whereabouts.
Life coaches and home organizers have devised tips on clearing our clutter. Two prominent tips are when you buy something new, make sure you get rid of a similar item that’s old; also, if you haven’t worn or used something in six months, get rid of it. But we might still be at the mercy of the next basement bargain, deal of a lifetime or sale of the century.
Consumerism or materialism?
Money is not good or bad in itself, but we are cautioned by the Apostle Paul that “…the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.”(1 Timothy 6:10, NLT) The god of mammon or materialism becomes the object of our worship. Worship may be defined as ‘anything we give our strength to, or draw strength from’. Jesus warned us that “…you cannot serve God and mammon” (Luke 16:13, NKJV). This is the ancient word for wealth and it is defined as “…an evil influence or a false object of worship (taken by medieval writers as the name of the devil of covetousness).” (Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 12th Edition) Clearly, it is not the monetary value but the value we attach to it that matters, in other words – what are you willing to sacrifice of your soul – thoughts, will, emotions – to acquire it?
The main reason people crave wealth is because of what it will enable them to afford, and the lifestyle and prestige it promises. The dolce vita or ‘good life’ is not what the devil would have you believe it is – more money than you know what to do with, luxuries, expensive holidays, servants (we’ve all had that fantasy!) Furthermore, money gives the illusion of control. Yet, if you’re sick, you can buy medicine but not health; if you’re sad, you can buy entertainment but not happiness; if you’re lonely, you can buy companions but not friends. The devil uses money as a snare or a trap to get us to take our minds off God and put it on money because money promises to provide for all our needs, thus taking the place of God who is our ultimate Provider (Yahweh Jireh).
The question arises – what price are you willing to ‘pay’ for money?
- Are you willing to work all hours to the neglect of your body’s need for sleep, a balanced diet and relaxation?
- Are you willing to spend so much time at work that your family relationships become irretrievably broken?
- Are you willing to commit a crime and risk losing your freedom?
- Are you willing to risk becoming so addicted to shopping and gambling that your debts begin to spiral out of control?
In all four examples you are sacrificing those ‘resources which are priceless’ – a good conscience, meaningful relationships, good health and well-being, freedom of movement, time and peace of mind.
The priceless truth
Jesus shared three fundamental principles which form the cure for materialism:
- “…seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”(Matthew 6:25-34, NKJV)
- “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:36-37, NKJV)
- “…people do not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4, AMP)
If you are amongst the frustrated majority who have taken the concept of retail therapy beyond the bounds of reasonableness, have homes full of stuff they don’t use but are still on a relentless quest to acquire, first recognise that you may be trying to satisfy a spiritual craving which Only God can satisfy. The second step may be to acknowledge the truth that your worth cannot be measured by how much money you make or what you can afford. Finally, before you click the ‘buy’ button on the web page or join the shopping queue in the store, why not ask yourself these two questions – ‘Do I really need this? Is there someone else who might benefit more from having it?’ You might well discover that the ultimate cure for materialism is the simple act of charitable giving!