If you aren’t happy, get a bigger TV.
If that doesn’t work, get a newer cell phone.
And if somehow even that doesn’t work, subscribe to more streaming channels.
This is our culture’s formula for happiness, never more pronounced on television commercials and banner ads than during Black Friday season.
I realize that buying things is much of what makes our economy run, provides people with jobs, and so on. And I realize that it’s okay to own things. But do you realize how out of control our consumption is and how empty these purchases and experiences really are? Buying more and more and more and better and bigger and newer stuff really is an addiction. And the companies running these ads know this.
More ≠ Better. I am overwhelmed with the amount of television channels there are today, and yet, no one is happier as a result of them! If anything, our lives are more depressed as we isolate away from in-person community even further. Every cell phone ad feels like it’s selling us the new Messiah. “THIS phone will save you. It will bring you utter joy and bliss. It is unlike your current phone, which is unable to offer you such blessings.” And then the next brand’s ad tells you the same thing.
In Luke 12:16-21, Jesus tells a parable of a man with lots of surplus. He didn’t have a place to store it all so he tore down his barns and built bigger ones. His new life philosophy was “eat, drink and be merry.” God calls him a fool and tells him he’s going to die that night. We are then told in Luke 12:21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
Yes I see the caveat there that we can store up things for ourselves, as long as we are rich toward God. But I think this goes way beyond tithing 10% to our (usually already wealthy) church. The man was called a fool because he stored up his things for himself and took a flippant selfish attitude about it and the purpose of his life. We’d be a fool as well, even if we do this with 90% of our stuff instead of 100.
I don’t have room to include all that Scripture says about giving to the poor and about God’s heart for justice for the oppressed. Here’s a snippet I created just from what’s in the four gospels.
Some other great insights from Scripture about money and accumulating stuff:
5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,
“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.”
6 So we say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.Hebrews 13:5-6
What can mere mortals do to me?”
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.1 Timothy 6:6-11
I’m not saying don’t go buy things on Black Friday. Though I think it’s healthier, and in the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday, to be content with what you already have just as Hebrews 13:5 commands. It’s ironic that we can only handle one day of being content with what we have before we have to go out and get all the best deals on newer, bigger, and faster.
The first step to repenting of idolatry is naming the idols. Accumulating stuff is an idol. Especially at the expense of the poor and oppressed. I will let the Holy Spirit be the one to tell you exactly what this should look like in your life, but Jesus may have been on to something when he once told one man, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21) He may have been on to something.
- Ep. 74: Laura Tarro on Planting a Church as a Woman Pastor - November 26, 2022
- If you aren’t happy, get a bigger TV - November 23, 2022
- Ep. 73: Interview with Ron Sandison on incorporating those with autism into the life of the Church - November 13, 2022