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The Less You Want, The Richer You Are – Overcoming Consumerism

PowerPoint Presentation
Video on Consumerism

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?

[Play video]

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.

Three cultural 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 more.
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!" Proverbs 18:11

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