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Fighting the Materialism

It’s getting so hard to see through the fog! Our mailboxes and cell phone advertisements inundate us with “deals”. We fill up our December calendars with tree hunting, Santa sightings, and “Christmas” shopping for people who don’t need a single material thing! I’m personally struggling to find the joy in that. Our culture is so materialistic, and it yearly seeks to find satisfaction in the same old “new” things. Although I get it, I find it ironic that Christians promote Biblical Christmas symbols with sometimes even bigger and brighter lights than their secular neighbors. Since we live in such an affluent nation, it’s so easy to fall into the trap of accumulation as the pathway out of the doldrums and into fulfillment.

Even if we’ve discovered the difficult lesson that no-thing can bring the lasting happiness that humanity searches for, is there any way out of that bottomless pit of material desire? No matter what you make or how much you have, you always want more or bigger or faster or newer! The late Mother Theresa described it this way: “Once the longing for money comes, the longing also comes for what money can give – superfluities – nice rooms – luxuries at table – more clothes – fans – and so on. Our needs will increase – for one thing brings another and the result will be endless dissatisfaction.”

There is a subtle disservice that we are doing to our own children in this “holiday season.” Many kids believe that they will someday have a higher standard of living than their parents. Any why not? We’ve given them everything they need and more, fostering a deeply embedded sense of entitlement. The truth is, many signs point out that this generation may be on a collision course with downward mobility. In many ways, that would be a blessing in disguise. Our current youth, with unfiltered access to media in their bedrooms, have been allowed to grow up with such a high standard of living that there’s almost nowhere to go but down. Those who find their sense of self-worth in those meaningless things will be disillusioned, and depressed. The worst possible result of never having enough, or desperately trying to hold on to things during a time of economic downturn, would be to “cope” with this failure through dangerous diversionary tactics, addictions, or even suicide. Premature affluence, divorced from their own hard work, is destructive!

Parents, teachers, and youth workers, are you aware of the God-shaped vacuum that they and we are trying to fill? Do you see how the non-stop marketing cycle is at odds with what the Bible claims to bring life with Christmas? Sadly, the majority of Western church-goers will by example point out that they functionally believe that our Redeemer is money and stuff! But if we truly LOVE our children, we will do all we can to point them away from the materialistic madness road that leads to nowhere. We can be better than the zoo monkeys they’ve caught in their native habitats using the same old trick of having a worthless shiny object in a jar, of which they refuse to let go!

Sadly, we ALL have too much, and even worse, many of us are continually trying to give our kids more of what they want and less of what they need. So slow down, reflect upon what messages we’re sending with our actions, and reconsider the words of Jesus, “You cannot serve both God and Money (Matthew 6:24). What potential we have in this season, to point to the dank & dirty stable where our Savior is born, whose sacrifice means LIFE to the world!

Here’s three questions you may wish to ask, “in the fog”, regarding materialism:

What is success? True success in life is faithfulness to God and obedience to his commands, whether your net worth is 10 cents or 10 million dollars.

What do you and I want our children to become? Our desire for our children should be the same as our heavenly Father’s desire for them: that they become like Christ in all things.

What must you and I do to make this happen? We must know the truth as it is contained in God’s Word, talk about it, live it, model it, experience it, and prayerfully trust God to change our children’s hearts and minds.

C.S. Lewis once said, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probably explanation is that I was made for another world.” This month, let’s point our young people we know and love to that other world, and ponder anew, His gift to us!

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