How would you feel if you win the lottery?
How much does your happiness depend on your possessions, or lack thereof?
What is the effect of your worries and concerns over money and possessions on your relationships?
How would your life change if you quit reading the flyers that accompany this newspaper?
Are you able to enjoy what others have without feeling a little green?
Are you content?
Complete the sentence: Life would be good if …
My concern is the relation between our possessions and our sense of gratitude.
In other words, how to be thankful in a consumer world where people are measured by how much they produce or what they earn; and where we assume that personal happiness and fulfillment are closely linked to our possessions and our ability to get or do what we want.
My sense is that our consumer-driven culture, with its materialism, is fostering in us a sense of entitlement, where we take God’s blessings for granted; an entitlement that makes it difficult to live thankful lives because we always feel we deserve more. Life owes us.
It creates at the same time a systemic discontent that makes us restless and focused on what we don’t have. Consumer societies thrive on people’s needs and wants. Advertising targets our vulnerabilities and specializes in creating artificial needs, and in making us feel unfulfilled, and discontent, always with the promise that life would be good and we would be happy if …
This is a far cry from the contentment that we see in the life of St. Paul, who writes from his room in Rome, where he is under house-arrest, chained to a Roman guard: “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:11-13.)
Many of us never seriously wrestle with the problems of consumerism or with the challenges of a more simple and grateful lifestyle.
We are too invested in this consumer-driven culture.
Christ has surprisingly much to say about materialism and consumer concerns.
Listen to this:
“Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is life not more important than food and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:15-27.)
He goes on to say: “You heavenly Father knows that you need these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be given to you as well.”
Gerard Booy is pastor at Haney Presbyterian Church.