- Friday, June 24, 2011
I think Robert Lynd said it best all the way back in 1915:
There are some people who want to throw their arms around you simply because it is Christmas; there are other people who want to strangle you simply because it is Christmas.
We don't need some gray-haired Swiss scientist on PBS to tell us our family and community bonds are unraveling. Daily life confirms it. If we're honest, we'll admit that our wedding vows often apply more to our jobs than to our spouses. The average person spends much more time at work, thinking about work, getting ready for work, commuting to work, trying to make work happy, or working at home than they do with their family. Some have no choice. But many have plenty of choices that materialism steals.
Here are some facts about increased affluence that Madison Avenue won't tell you. In a study of one thousand lottery winners, a surprisingly high number were less happy six months later. Many had turned to drugs, and even more suffered a sense of isolation.
The average size of a home fifty years ago—when families were bigger—was the size of today's three-car garage, around nine hundred square feet. The average home by 2000 was almost three times larger. Furthermore, family incomes have increased 85 percent since the 1950s, yet polls show Americans overwhelmingly were happier fifty years ago.
Today, put an average family in a nine-hundred-square-foot home and they likely will think they are children of a lesser god. They may be tempted to sit in ashes, tear their clothes, and denounce their faith in the real God. But it's not like he hasn't warned us about the devastating results of having full coffers and an empty soul. In the parable of the rich landowner, the Lord calls him a fool; his soul is harvested that same night.
Sometimes Jesus said things that require some figuring out. But on the destructive ills of consumerism his message is streamlined and crystal clear: We can't serve God and money at the same time. His clear admonition to us? Choose.
Hear this, though, as well: We don't want to transpose the mistake and glorify poverty for poverty's sake. There's a balancing act of sorts in regard to possessions. We could say, "Don't make me so poor, Lord, that I resent you. And don't make me so rich that I forget you."
People in nations that are developing, moving out of widespread impoverishment, usually say they are happier with increased wealth. No surprises there, for poverty brings burdens that can crush a spirit. However, so can the weight of excess, and in a more seductive way.
Glenn Stanton, Director of social Research and Cultural Affairs for Focus on the Family, pinpoints what this does to families. "Affluenza, the unnecessary accumulation of possessions, is about misplaced priorities. It sends the message loud and clear that life is about stuff, no people."
Affleunza disintegrates spiritual vitality, and as Stanton notes, Christians somehow aren't much different than nonChristians when it comes to the insatiable desire for what's newer, bigger—and unnecessary.
Materialism, the will toward pleasure, not purpose, does far more than disconnect us from transcendent causes, which provide true meaning and real peace. Materialism is not passive—it's aggressive and pernicious, and it actively opposes such a connection. It's a seductive, attractive form of infidelity, a kind of fatal attraction. Materialism stops us from building our marriages, from playing with our kids, from providing for widows and orphans. Materialism seduces us to keep our mouths shut when we see clear injustice and heinous cruelty.
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