Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Pile it High!

Consumerism has become the plague of our culture. We want more and more for less and less. We want it fast, instantaneous if possible. Somehow we believe that if we have more “stuff” then we will be happier. We have supersized our lives. When we run out of room for our junk in the house we fill up our garage. When that’s full be rent a storage space down the street and fill that up. Soon we can’t find anything because of the everything that we have in the way. I’m not sure we were designed to accumulate.

I understand the primitive nature of those who, due to some trauma or significant loss in their past, have a reluctance to throw anything away. These are the people who save every newspaper, magazine and grocery bag. However, many of us grew up with plenty. We never really worried that we would have dinner on the table or clothes to wear; yet still we are filling our closets to the max. We tend to accumulate for a few reasons. First, we are told we need it. We think it will make us feel better. We have culturally infused competitive natures and we find our security in what we have rather than who we are.

The average person sees more than 3,000 advertisements per year. We are inundated with the media telling us what we need. There are banner ads on our email, commercials on television, direct mail and now, the bane of my existence, cell phone telemarketing. Each ad is designed to tell us that the product or service they are providing is just what we need to fill that last remaining gap in our lives. There are choppers to smash stuff and super glues to put it all back together. There are toys that entertain and cases for those toys to keep them safe and make them even more stylish.

Not only do we need it but also if we have it we will feel better. There is a sensation that is commonly known as “buyer’s rush” which is that surge of adrenalin that you get when you make a purchase. There are even those folks who so crave to that feeling that they addicted to shopping. That feeling is fleeting, however, and is only fueled by another purchase. Before long you are watching infomercials and trying to find what will make you feel better if you purchase it next.

Competition also fuels our consumerism. We want to keep up with the Jones. Make sure that we also have the newest SUV and the biggest, flat screen television. Since we were children we have had the philosophy that “my dad is bigger than your dad.” That has grown into “my SUV is cooler than your SUV.”

Stuff also makes us feel secure. We like to be surrounded by “our stuff.” We begin this with our teddy bear or blanket as a small child. Every parent has stories about forgetting a prized stuffed animal and driving back an hour to get it fearing that their child would never get to sleep if they didn’t have it at bedtime. As we grow, we accumulate more security stuff. Before long we have closets filled with memorabilia. We fear that if we get rid of that ceramic doll painted by great aunt Sue or the journals from middle school, a part of our “selves” will be lost.

Jesus told the disciples to go and serve with only the clothes on their back. How often has my stuff held be back from doing everything God has called me to do? Have my physical possessions tied me to the past rather than freeing me to live out my call to the future.

Gracious God, who is the giver of all good gifts. Forgive me for worshipping stuff rather than You. Grant me the ability to clean out my closets and clean out my heart. In the name of the one who gives us the gift of freedom, Jesus, I pray. Amen

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