I’ve always been pretty good at consuming. I’ve always been fairly materialistic, I love gadgets, technology etc. I also understand that this has probably not been a particularly healthy thing in my life overall.
It may be because we have so much opportunity, we are so eager to ‘upgrade’ to the next generation product instead of keeping the perfectly working thing that you already have. We are so often more prepared to replace than repair. Why is that?
Our whole culture is set up to draw our attention to what we don’t have, advertising shows us what we don’t have and draws our awareness to our discontent with what we do have because its not as good / fast / shiny / new etc.
The trouble with this is that we now have an appetite for consumerism. Then we fall into the trap of believing that if we do get the next thing, the newer, bigger, faster, shinier etc. thing, we will be happy, content, satisfied.
But, within no time at all, we see something else that is released that just beats that thing we just bought. Why do we think that by feeding that appetite for new stuff, it will satiate it?
Does that work with food? How many times have you eaten a meal and then said “great I’ll never need to eat again”. How many of us, after the first night of our honeymoon have said “well, that’s satisfied that desire, never going to need to do that again.”?
It doesn’t work does it!
To reduce our consumer appetite, we need to starve it. The best way I found to satiate my appetite for gadgets and technology was not to continue to feed it and upgrade my phone every year, replace my computer every two years, get a new car every three years, but to avoid that kind of behaviour.
I stopped browsing http://www.apple.com/uk just ‘window shopping’, I stopped looking at new cars in the showroom or in car magazines, I didn’t pick up the ‘latest deals’ magazine when I passed the mobile phone shop or electronics shop.
My breakthrough was realising that the sum of my possessions did not make me the person I was. I realised that whether or not I had any of that stuff, God still loved me, I didn’t need to impress anyone else, I didn’t even need to impress God. When I realised I was completely, utterly, truly and unconditionally loved by God regardless of how he found / saw me, the stuff really didn’t matter quite as much any more.
The real catalyst for this change was 1 Timothy 6:6-10
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 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. 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.
Money and stuff won’t bring me happiness, in fact observing a lot of wealthy people (just take a look at some of the classic glossy celebrity magazines) it seems that the more money and stuff people have the less happy and content they are.
I also found that being reminded I was already rich was helpful. A really good place to realise this was the income calculator http://www.globalrichlist.com/ (go and pay it a visit now and see where you rank.) Don’t compare yourself to your peers, compare yourself to the rest of the world.
Then I realised, later in that Timothy passage, being rich, I had responsibilities.
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
To be content with what you have will enable you to take hold of ‘the life that is truly life’. ‘The life that is truly life’ is not transient and passing like the life we now lead and the stuff we own, but it is lasting and ultimately completely fulfilling.
Don’t make my mistakes in being consumeristic / materialistic, grasp hold of the life that really matters. Grasp the hand of Jesus, ‘the way, the truth and the life’.
We must keep our eyes on Jesus, who leads us and makes our faith complete. He endured the shame of being nailed to a cross, because he knew that later on he would be glad he did. Now he is seated at the right side of God’s throne! (Hebrews 12:2)