The Less You Want, The Richer You Are –
Scripture Readings: Hebrews 13:5-6, Matthew 6:19-21,Eccl. 5:10-11, Luke
12:15, Proverbs 18:11
The Less You Want, The Richer
You Are – Overcoming Consumerism
by Frank Schaefer
Don’t be obsessed with
getting more material things. Be relaxed with what you have. Since God assured
us, “I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you,” we can boldly
quote: “God is there, ready to help; I’m fearless no matter what. Who or what
can get to me?” Hebrews 13:5-6
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust
destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves
treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do
not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be
also." Matthew 6:19-21
Today’s message is about
1. SIN, specifically the sin
of gluttony or consumerism (which is also helping to save the environment).
2. Giving up things that we
don't really need, so we can become spiritually rich.
1. Sin –
Most of us living in the
first world are gluttons. We are committing the sin of consumerism every day.
The Greeks fully grasped the
high costs of passionate excess. The idea of avoiding excess was a prime
ingredient in a life worth living. They correctly understood that when people
violate the limits of a reasonable mean, they pay penalties ranging from
frustrations to utter catastrophe. It is for this reason that they prized ideals
such as measure, balance, harmony, and proportion. So, moderation was considered
a solution to life’s problems. (1)
Why is excessive living or “consumerism” so bad? Well, it means that relatively
few people in this world are taking more than they need and waste the excess.
Have you ever seen someone in line at the buffet in the cafeteria and put so
much food on their plate that they couldn’t eat it and then threw the excess in
the trash? What a waste of perfectly good food in the face of world hunger.
Consumerism Destroys the Environment:
Did you know that consumerism is a major contributor to climate change? And yet
we continue to buy and horde and waste. In the words of William Wallace: Our
obsession with consumption means that we have become the future-eaters,
swallowing up the future of generations yet unborn (2)
According to Carlo Orecchia and Pietro Zoppoli in their important research on
Consumerism and Environment, “Consumption can affect the environment in many
ways: higher levels of consumption (and therefore higher levels of production)
require larger inputs of energy and material and generate larger quantities of
waste by products. Increased extraction and exploitation of natural resources,
accumulation of waste and concentration of pollutants can damage the environment
and, on the long run, limit economic activity.” (3)
2. Giving up things we don't need. We need to learn to recognize
and then avoid excess. We need to relearn living life in harmony and balance
with God and the environment.
Why do I always want more things? What motivates me to always keep spending
myself into debt? What motivates me to never be satisfied with what I have? What
motivates me to keep wanting more and more and more?
Society tells us: Having
things is everything. But our Christian faith teaches us that the most important
things in life aren’t things at all.
misconceptions: Having more things will make us...
a. more happy
b. more important
c. more secure
Misconception #1 - Having
more things will make us more happy.
Things can bring happiness. The problem is, it's temporary. It's just for a
while. If you get a gift, you're happy about it. But it doesn't last and after a
while the thrill goes away and the excitement fades.
"He who loves money
shall never have enough. The foolishness of thinking that wealth brings
happiness! The more you have, the more you spend.“ Eccl. 5:10-11
Deep down, we really don’t
want more things, more toys, more cars, we want what they can bring us! We want
to feel content, accepted, loved, whole!
Misconception #2 - Having more things will make me more important.
The misconception is, I am what I own, that my valuables determine my value,
that if I have little then I must be worth little. So since I want to be liked
and respected and looked up to, I must continually keep on getting more and
The fact is, many people buy things they don't need with money they don't have
to impress people they don't even like! That does not make sense.
"Be on your guard
against greed in any shape or form. For a man's real life in no way depends on
the number of his possessions." Don't confuse your net worth with your self
worth. Luke 12:15
Misconception #3 Having
more things will make me more secure.
"If I could just achieve financial independence..." Have you heard that one? As
if that's the goal of life. The fact is, the more you have, the more insecure
you can be because the more you have to worry about. The more you have, the more
time and energy it takes to maintain it. The more you have, the more insurance
you have to pay to insure it. I never worry about the barnacles on my yacht –
cause I don't have a yacht.
The truth is that the less
you have, the less you have to worry about.
"The rich man thinks of
his wealth as an impregnable defense, a high wall of safety. What a dreamer!"
The truth is, real security
can only be found when you place your security in something that can't be taken
away from you. Jesus says we must focus on permanent values. On things that
really matter, that really count, which aren’t material things at all. Here is
another William Wallace quote: “When you discover the gold within your soul, the
whole world becomes golden. You are no longer obsessed with the desire to own or
consume but are simply content to be aware (4)”
And as you meditate on these principles and verses, you will discover for
yourself that the less you want, the richer you are. What are you willing to
give up for Lent? What are you willing to give up for the environment? What are
you willing to give up for your own spiritual growth?
(1) Solon’s prescription “Nothing in Excess”
(6th Century B.C.)
(2) by William L. Wallace form the Lent Festive Worship Collection, Progressive
(3) Carlo Orecchia, Pietro Zoppoli, Consumerism and Environment: Does
Consumption Behaviour Affect Environmental Quality? 2007
(4) by William L. Wallace form the Lent Festive Worship Collection, Progressive