It’s an obvious thing to say because it’s so true: we like our stuff, and we want more stuff. But why? If we can hold a certain thing in our hand, will our joy in life be greater. We might think so, but even when we do get the stuff we want, we still want more stuff, and we never seem to be satisfied.
That’s the big irony of living in our consumer-driven culture: commercials tell us that if we get this one thing, we’ll be happy/satisfied–and yet, there are some many commercials about so many things, we can never own them all.
A recent article is helping me think about this, and it pointed out that the Bible verse Obadiah 1:17 can be translated by saying that one day, when God makes all things new, God’s followers will “possess their possessions.” That might sound repetitive, but in actuality, does it ever feel like your possessions own you instead the other way around? They call to you, tempting you to buy them; then you have take care of them, fix them when they break, and give them your attention. But do they make you happy for as long as you have them, or does the immediate excitement start to wane?
The author Peter Kreeft explains a reason for this in his book Heaven: the Heart’s Deepest Longing:
“Since an idol is not God, no matter how sincerely or passionately it is treated as God, it is bound to break the heart of its worshipper, sooner or later. Good motives for idolatry cannot remove the objective fact that the idol is an unreality. You can’t get blood from a stone or divine joy from non-divine things.”
If you have kids, you know how fast a kid’s enjoyment of a new toy can fade away. Some toys have a longer enjoyment life span than others, but eventually, even the thing he’d been demanding for months, will end up on the shelf or in the toy chest, as you see all the money you spent just sit there being unused.
Maybe you yourself can remember how excited you were to wake up Christmas morning and see your new stuff; then, by Christmas afternoon, you’d gone through it all and were ready to do something else. That’s the danger in making Christmas about stuff to buy; you’ll end up with post-Christmas morning blues, or worse: Christmas buyer’s remorse.
At the end of every day, material things cannot give us true joy, just a few moments of fun at best. This article provides a good warning for us:
If the material goods surrounding my life (the ones I own and the ones I crave) dictate how I use my money, I reserve more for me and give less for God (or anyone else). I buy more things, which, in the end, provide no divine joy. I am in a vicious cycle and don’t understand the angst that surrounds my life…. If I am a steward of my goods, I possess my possessions. I control my desires for them. I make conscious decisions when I will buy them and how I will use them. I decide what I will give away based on my love for God and others, instead of out of the fear I won’t have enough to buy the products that promise happiness.
So how much do you struggle with this? How hard is it to let go of earthly treasures and store up treasures in heaven instead (Luke 12:32-34)? Do you feel like you’re a good steward of your possessions, or does it feel like your possessions own you?