Materialism

Life Beyond the Consumer Carousel

If you are a typical, suburban American, you ride a wooden horse on the “consumer carousel.” And on this economic joy-ride, there is a place where we grip the pole with our left hand and reach out with our right to grasp a brass ring. Then, as our painted horse proceeds in a lazy circle to the accompaniment of festive music, we get another chance to grab another ring. And on this particular ride, the rings get bigger and better with each pass.

On our first circuit we sign a lease on a modest apartment. The carousel slowly turns and with great excitement we return to the ring post and hook a starter home. On the next pass, we hope to grasp a bigger house in a better location.

On round one we dine at McDonalds and Dairy Queen. But as the carousel completes another revolution, we upgrade to Red Lobster and Olive Garden. On the next round we reach for a yet bigger and better brass ring, hoping to dine at exclusive restaurants with story-book names, opulent décor and white-capped chefs.

On our first pass we secure a used car. On the next round we get something “more reliable.” Another pass or two and we are reaching for that car or truck (or tank) of our dreams.

Life on the consumer carousel is all about upgrading. Each circuitous pass provides fresh opportunity to secure a bigger and/or better replacement of what we already have. Bigger and better shelter, higher quality food, more expensive clothes, better transportation, entertainment, appliances, furnishings, vacations, and on and on it goes.

Economic conditions among suburbanites in this country vary considerably. But we all have a horse on this ride. Admit it, there is something right now that you are hoping to replace with something more costly in the near future.

2685 reads

Beware Every Kind of Greed

WealthPosted previously at SI on June 13, 2008. Reprinted with permission from As I See It. AISI is sent free to all who request it by writing to the editor at dkutilek@juno.com.

It is now some dozen years, perhaps more, since I heard a professor from Dallas Theological Seminary, a Dr. Green as I recall, preach at a missions conference in Wichita. His text was the famous parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:13-21), who planned to tear down his barns to build bigger ones for his surplus crops. He supposed that with his material needs abundantly provided for, he was on easy street and would enjoy a long and relaxing retirement, only to face death that very night. But rather than making the usual application of the passage to those lost persons who are preoccupied with this world’s goods to the neglect of their own soul’s eternal welfare, the professor made a pointed application to the life of believers, an application that after more than a decade I cannot drive from my mind. It was as follows:

We believers know Christ and know in theory the completely transitory nature of all our worldly goods and the express command from Christ not to focus our energies on amassing possessions in this life, but rather to focus on accumulating an ever-growing treasure in heaven. For all that, we nevertheless for the most part act exactly like the rich fool! We set before us as our chief aim the piling up of wealth and possessions with a preoccupation with houses and lands, with cars and fine clothes, with bank accounts and 401k’s. And whenever God blesses us with an increase in income or an inheritance, we automatically assume that God intends for us to spend all the increase on ourselves with yet more luxury; more vacations; and a yet larger, more palatial dwelling. “Let us tear down our barns and build bigger!” When is enough enough? When does our self-focused spending become that greed of which Jesus warned? When does it become sin?

2512 reads

Review - You Are the Treasure That I Seek

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It all started with an e-mail I received one day—“See the latest deals on our new line of laptops!” With just one click of the mouse I was transported to the website of one of the leading computer retailers. The minutes quickly ticked by as I sat there dreaming of owning a more powerful machine, pondering any way that I could afford it, and contemplating the reason I would give my wife for such a “necessary” upgrade. What started as mere curiosity soon led to a disturbing amount of discontentment with the perfectly good computer I already had. Without even realizing it my heart had turned that advertisement into a full blown idol.

Greg Dutcher’s You Are the Treasure That I Seek serves to awaken us to the sobering reality that idolatry is very much alive and well in American Christianity, and indeed in our own hearts. “Idolatry is an old-fashioned word, consigned to social studies classes and Clive Cussler novels. But what if it’s alive and well, even in America? What if it’s a problem of such epidemic proportions that our unawareness of it is only making it worse?” (p. 16). Dutcher warns that to the extent that we have relegated idolatry to the jungles of Africa we have been deceived and have had our concept of idolatry shaped more by Indiana Jones than by Jesus and Paul. Written on more of a popular level, the book is a fairly quick read, although the subject matter and format (including a study guide with application questions at the end of each chapter) lend to a more thoughtful study of the book.

In the opening chapter of his epistle to the Romans, the apostle Paul tells us that “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles” (Rom 1:21–23). Dutcher identifies the essence of idolatry in that one little word in verse twenty-three—exchanged. He writes,

Humanity’s illness is the idolatry syndrome. We were infected when our first parents considered a piece of fruit sweeter than fellowship with God. We were ruined when they deemed the word of a snake better than the promise of ‘a God who cannot lie’ (Titus 1:2). They compared. They calculated. They traded in God for a ‘better model.’ We’ve been doomed ever since. (p. 30)

1079 reads

Beware of Every Kind of Greed

Note: This article is reprinted with permission from As I See It, a monthly electronic magazine compiled and edited by Doug Kutilek. AISI is sent free to all who request it by writing to the editor at dkutilek@juno.com.

It is now some dozen years, perhaps more, since I heard a professor from Dallas Theological Seminary, a Dr. Green as I recall, preach at a missions conference in Wichita. His text was the famous parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:13-21), who planned to tear down his barns to build bigger ones for his surplus crops. He supposed that with his material needs Wealthabundantly provided for, he was on easy street and would enjoy a long and relaxing retirement, only to face death that very night. But rather than making the usual application of the passage to those lost persons who are preoccupied with this world’s goods to the neglect of their own soul’s eternal welfare, the professor made a pointed application to the life of believers, an application that after more than a decade I cannot drive from my mind. It was as follows:

803 reads

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