Life is difficult! Life is daily! And it’s in the regular, mundane stuff where consumerism meets us, lures us, and speaks consistently to our desires and wants.
In our culture, we can so easily be tricked into responding to the temptation of advertising, acquiring and possessing. I know only too well my own heart’s craving when I see a new product released by a favourite company!
Or my wanting that ‘bargain’ that seems too good to miss! My eagerly desiring ‘the new’. It’s hard to do it differently but the question I keep asking myself is, ‘Do I want life, faith and Jesus more than these things?’
It’s dangerous making too much of anything but Jesus in this life. Fashioning little idols is all too easy. Or just making material things the centre of life rather than God. The problem is not consuming to live, but rather living to consume.
The novelist Ben Okri put it this way: ‘Material success has brought us to a strange spiritual and moral bankruptcy… The more the society has succeeded, the more its heart has failed.’
At the time of writing, a British four year old has been confirmed as an ‘iPad addict’. At twenty years of age, the average amount of time we spend in front of a screen based intake totals almost three years. We are drowning, overloaded; we are stifled of space, life and fresh air. Consumerism all too easily becomes our unspoken god.
Hebrews 13 verse 5 encourages us to, ‘Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you”’.
Ultimately the power of consumerism, the ‘lust of the eye’, the ‘I want … therefore I will have’ attitude in contemporary culture, forces us to ask hard questions about the relevance of our faith. Are we truly seeking a life with God? Or are we simply trying to use Him? Is our allegiance to Christ and His Kingdom? Or is ‘Christian’ simply a label we identify with, but with no real impact on our life and behaviour?
As we journey in this life with God are we presenting Jesus Christ as the goal and treasure of life? Or is He being packaged and sold as a commodity to help consumers achieve lesser desires?
We’ve traded the above-all love of Jesus for labels; the inexhaustible joy of God for passing trends. We’ve lost the difference between needs and wants. Consumerism plays to wants, not needs and, as followers of Jesus, we don’t quickly stand to declare the difference any more.
Yet in Jesus are all the clues – all the example, encouragement and energy to live abundantly well. In Him we are shown how to live, what to prioritise, how to love. Whether we know it or not, we need a simpler and more satisfying life.
We need to stop the shopping.
We need courage to stop the justifying.
We need to simply not go there.
I’ll know I’ve made progress with my own consumerist tendencies when all I want in this life is all that I need. I want to need less. I want to love more generously. I want to live more simply and give more sacrificially. You and I have the choice.
Jesus calls us to understand the passions and attractions of our culture, as well as to be deeply counter-cultural in our relationship with all that surrounds us. The horizon of heaven beckons us to be deeply dissatisfied with our own times; to live distinctively as the Holy Spirit enables us.