The past month or so I have been struck by materialism. And as the holiday season begins, it really causes me to notice it more and more. The materialism is just sickening to me.
I used to be just like the next one, and had lists of things I wanted for Christmas, or went shopping and wanted the things I saw. I was never brand loyal or interested in the latest technology or newest versions of things, but there was always something else I needed to be happy or live better.
Perhaps its because I spent the summer in an area of the world where they live with a much lower standard of living. Seeing people live joyously on so little puts things into perspective. Watching someone take crusts and leftovers off people's plates in a restaurant suddenly makes you want to clean your plate at home. Meeting little children who are hungry suddenly makes black Friday shopping seem much less...necessary.
Why do we do this? What does all the stuff even mean? Does it really make you happy to know that you have the latest $600 phone? Is it really a necessity? Does it really make you feel better about yourself to buy loads of new, shiny things? Things are meaningless. Things will go out of style, get broken or look less shiny. Things have a way of fading away, and then you can't remember what you even owned or had.
It all just makes me so disappointed to see people spending so much money and time on what lasts for moments or is quickly forgotten. We have things so backwards, and no one seems to realize, but rush on to the next item, or stand in line at the next sale to get the item that will make them happier or look better. And no one knows why, it seems. The money we spend on things for ourselves or our children...a fraction of that is someone else's daily living. And what are we spending it on?
The materialism is a problem when it grows so out of proportion with everything else, that it overshadows what is really important. How do you put into perspective what is necessary vs. what is superfluous?
I keep thinking of the line, "you can't take it with you." and I wonder, what happens to all the time spent on these things, when we die? What about all the money we've wasted? How is that accounted for when we're dead? What good did we do Steve Jobs by buying the newest version of the same product over and over again? What good did we do ourselves? And in the end, what did it all matter, really.
And then I think of the millions of people who just barely survive, much less worry about whether they have the things we deem necessary in our culture. Cable tv and internet on our cellphones. Some don't even have heated houses, or sufficient clothing. Not to mention decent food or water.
I'm generally feeling disgusted by it all, and especially this Christmas season. In the rush of buying, the flurry of making lists for Santa, I just want to sit back and say, so what? Where's it getting us, who is it helping, and who are we harming with all this STUFF. Stuff that will burn away and can disappear in moments. And leave us with....what becomes the essentials. Things like relationships, like character, like intangibles that will never be burned away or stolen. And this season to remember and celebrate Jesus' beginnings...I'm not sure the Jesus I know would be thrilled by what its turned into. Worshipful gratefulness for the gift of salvation, for what He ultimately came to do...by buying?
I find materialism disgusting. Things don't impress me. Let me see your passion, your life, your inner self. Those things will always be there, no matter what. I don't want to live with all this stuff. I don't want to be defined by it, I don't want my money wasted on it. I know we need certain things to live, but all those extras...what if we went without and gave the money to someone else?
I grew up during an extremely hard time in our family. We had many nice, new things, but compared to everyone else around us, we had nothing. I remember Christmas' with a new toy. A present from my parents. And it did a world of good for me. I never regret growing up with less than my friends. It gave me so much to be grateful for. It gave me so much awareness of what is really necessary to happiness. And it wasn't heaps of things.
Oh Jesus! Help us see that Your love is the ultimate important, necessary thing! Help us to put into perspective the things that attract us so, help us to use the gifts you have given us to show your love to others instead of selfishly thinking of ourselves. Forgive us for losing ourselves in things. With all my heart, I pray. Amen.