How do we avoid consumerism?

Posted on April 16, 2012 at 11:19 am,

Yesterday at church a couple of things set me wondering about how much I’ve brought into the consumerist ideal that our society is constantly pushing at us.

Firstly, we repaired some damage to our projector screen. Over the years of putting it up and down every week, some of the poppers that attach the fabric to to the frame had become distorted. I’d assumed that this was eventually going to mean that we’d have to buy a new one, but it turns out that we could repair it. Which made me wonder how often I’ll fall into the same trap of replacing something that could easily be repaired. Although I rarely watch commercials and have adblockers on my web browser, I’m still exposed to the message they all send (buy more stuff and you’ll be happier/better off). Have I swallowed the lie more than I thought?

And then, the issue came up again in the sermon, which brought up some of the verses dealing with our attitude to possessions – Matthew 6:19-21. Our culture tells us to lay up treasures on Earth, whilst Jesus tells us to do the opposite. It’s something I know intellectually, but it’s an attitude that I hold intermittently. Most days I won’t care about my possessions, but some days I’ll find myself earnestly wishing that I could buy a house, or have certain luxuries. Or I’ll take pride in my collection of Doctor Who stuff. But because every aspect of our culture is saturated with these attitudes, I’ll often fail to realise that I’m wanting these things not because they’ll be a useful tool to do the things God has called me to (although some of them will be), but instead because I’m prone to the sin of consumerism.

Getting rid of consumerism is not primarily about modifying our behaviour, but in modifying our hearts. For a Christian, it’s about learning to align our thinking about money and possessions with God’s. We don’t necessarily have to buy into alternative ways of living to shake it off, we just have to find ways of learning to treat possessions as lightly as Jesus did. I’m a long way from learning to consistently reject the central idol of the Western world. But thankfully God is teaching me to be more aware of the times I slip into that particular form of idolatry.

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