I’ll never forget the culture shock of moving from a third world country to America. Growing up as a missionary kid had kept me relatively sheltered from getting whatever I want whenever I wanted it. If I needed new clothes, the hunt to find even just a plain t-shirt would sometimes take days! All of that changed when I turned 18 and moved to the States. I remember being on the plane from Seoul to Los Angeles, watching Hannah Montana on the little screen in front of me. “Here we go,” I thought to myself, “I’m about to live in the country of Miley Cyrus. God help me.” Little did I know what I was in for! Not long after, I found myself standing in awe at the cereal section of the grocery store, overwhelmed by the selection. (I mean, who really needs all these different cereals?!) I could hardly BELIEVE that there were SO many nice clothes just minutes away from my house! Not to mention coffee shops, fast food joints, antique stores, supermarkets, and every other kind of shopping heaven you could imagine. This truly was the land of never-ending STUFF! From the billboards to the TV commercials, it quickly became clear to me that America ran on self-focus and discontentment. But as I settled into my new life, little did I realize that I would start floating down that very same stream of consumerism.
It wasn’t too long ago when it hit me. I was a consumer. Maybe I realized it when I couldn’t find anything to wear in my overflowing closet, or maybe it was when I grumbled about my coffee being made wrong, or got angry when there was nothing good to watch on Netflix. Thankfully, the good Lord is committed to my sanctification, and so he began to slowly reveal to me the ways in which I was behaving like an idiot. So after 6 years of being in America and a few years of actively battling consumerism, a few things have become very clear to me. First of all, I have ALWAYS been a consumer, even before coming to the States! It was just WAY harder to satisfy my consumerism in a third world country. Secondly, I have realized that consumerism has invaded EVERY SINGLE WAY OF LIFE here in our self-focused, Western world. So what does it mean to be a consumer? Pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Picture a hungry hyena with a crazed look in its eye, forever searching for what he can devour next, never satisfied with what he ate last. Well that’s me, and that is US. So today I’m stepping up to the plate to reveal just a few areas in which can ALL start fighting against consumerism.
Ok, so this one is a no-brainer. We KNOW that we are a country jam-PACKED with stuff that we DON’T EVEN NEED. So why is it so dang hard? The main thing influencing our hunger in this area, are the CONSTANT advertisements we see. Each one is intended to make you feel DISCONTENT with WHAT YOU HAVE, and persuade you that buying or owning THEIR product will MAKE YOU HAPPY. Wow. The scary part is that professional marketers are getting more and more cunning about convincing you, before you even realize what’s happening. So how do we counteract this attack on our contentment (and our wallets)? One easy way is to pull the plug on CABLE. You’re basically paying to watch commercials if you have cable, and if there is something playing live that you just HAVE to see, then I KNOW you can find a friend to hang out with, or even live-stream it from your laptop. But DON’T pay to have your contentment attacked. Another way to defend yourself, is to simply be aware. Every time you feel that urge to buy a product, ask yourself three questions: WHY do I want this? Do I actually NEED this? Will this actually IMPROVE my life? Remember that STUFF is HEAVY, and it will weigh you down mentally, physically, and spiritually the more you collect.
Oh boy. Now we are wading into the deep end, folks. Here we go. To be a consumer in your relationships is to assume that the other person exists for YOUR benefit, and if they’re not fulfilling their purpose of MAKING YOU HAPPY, then it’s ok to pull the plug. After all, you would return a stained blouse right? A cup of coffee with almond milk instead of soy? A car that didn’t start quite right? We are literally treating people like the possessions we shop for. The evidence for this is OVERWHELMING (um, hello, Tinder?! What the HECK is going on?!). We shop for friends by collecting them on social media and then unfollowing them if they say something we don’t like. We shop for spouses by creating lists and then dating person after person in order to “test drive”. Even worse than that, after we marry we treat our spouses like a large purchase, complaining when they don’t live up to our expectations (“false advertising!” we argue). This mindset has become the norm in every single relationship we have, from the person who serves us coffee, to the man or woman we go to sleep next to at night. What’s the answer for this one? It goes a lot deeper than simply canceling your cable subscription. I like to think of what any good steward would do. First, a godly steward recognizes the value in EVERYONE. Second, they realize that NO ONE actually BELONGS to them. And third, they know that they will be held ACCOUNTABLE. How different would our relationships look if we saw them as gifts from God? Given to us for a REASON that we will one day need to answer for?
When was the last time you heard someone complain about a church service? I don’t know about you, but I hear it ALL THE TIME. What’s even more convicting, is that I HAVE DONE THE SAME THING. “Church was ok today, but man, the worship was AWFUL.” “That pastor messed up so many times today when he spoke!” “I can’t believe how bad the graphics are on the church program.” “It just drives me CRAZY how people put on pretenses at church. How fake can people BE?” “No one lifted their hands!” “Too many people were lifting their hands.” “It was too religious.” “It didn’t have any substance!” And on and on and on. This one cuts me to the core, because I empathize with this attitude probably more than anything else. I’ll tell you what friend, I am ALL ABOUT being selective in the church you attend and become a member of, but jeepers creepers! It is far too easy to be CRITICAL, instead of simply coming to church with an OFFERING of WORSHIP. Am I the biggest fan of every church out there? NO. However, I want to begin with changing MY ATTITUDE before I can even HOPE to make a difference in anyone else!
I’m about to tell you something CRAZY. In fact, it might just BLOW YOUR MIND.
If you are an out-of-control CONSUMER, then I can almost guarantee that you are NOT consuming ENOUGH of Christ.
Think about it, why do we consume? Because we’re HUNGRY. In fact, we were DESIGNED to be hungry and have desires! But just like any beautifully designed invention, we were made to be FILLED by something very SPECIFIC. When we put expectations on people and institutions that were never meant to satisfy us, we become that crazed hyena, forever hungry and gobbling up whatever is around us. I’ll tell you what, only an infinite God can satisfy an infinite hunger, and we were designed BY HIM AND FOR HIM! So YES, I am a consumer, I am an overjoyed consumer of the only One who can fulfill all of my deepest desires. And when we look to God to fulfill our desires, we can then become givers instead of a takers. Turning to the Beautiful One and rejecting the world allows us to be FULL and FREE! Completely unhindered in being creators, givers, servants, and selfless leaders.
So let’s FIGHT the cultural current of consumerism, be CONTENT with what we have (and with what we don’t), and stand FIRM against ANYTHING that threatens our satisfaction in Christ!
Let’s start drinking the LIVING WATER that NEVER RUNS DRY.