At it's simplest, consumerism, and the marketing machine that supports it, is specifically designed to disrupt contentment - convincing us that the thing we were perfectly happy with before we saw their latest advert is now totally inadequate.
As the saying goes, "A fool and his money are easily parted," - keep your contentment though and you'll keep more than just your wallet. Here's the slides from the session, we'll unpack some of the discussion below.
- How much beauty it adds to your life (which leads to more gratitude and contentment)
- How consciously you have to resist the pressure to speed up and race through it - consuming your meal and the moment, rather than appreciating and savouring it.
Contentment is a gift that adds so much to our lives. As Paul writes, "Godliness with contentment is great gain," (1 Timothy 6:6-8). The kingdom of darkness seem to understand this as they appear to have invested a lot of energy in disrupting our contentment. If they succeed it opens the door for envy. This was Lucifer's strategy in Eden: "Did God really say that? No, no....he's just afraid you'll become like him if you eat that. He doesn't want you to be as equals to him. Go on, have a bite. It does look good doesn't it? Go on, you won't regret it," (Gen 3, somewhat paraphrased).
They also pointed out the damaging effect envy can have on our relationships, posing the challenging question: "Is it possible there are people who are disconnected from you because of envy? And if so, what can you do about it?"
This is a great question. It's easy to tell yourself your happy with life and the things you have - that you don't need all the latest gadgets, cars, brands...things. But how 'branded' are we actually, how 'branded' have we let our lives become? And are these brands acting as potential barriers, separating us from other 'classes' of people in the community around us? How do we bridge these gaps? Could we start by taking some of the brands off - reclaiming our identity as people again, rather than as walking billboards? What else might we do? How many friends do you have who are not in the same social class as you? Do you just spend time with those you perceive as 'like' you? These are some of the myriad little ways consumerism invades our relationships. Jesus modeled something quite different.
We'll close for now with two clips we looked at on the day.
The first clip from Rob Bell helps highlight some of the divide and perhaps reminds us that we really do live in an incredibly wealthy society - we forget that too easily.
The second clip is a clever short film that illustrates how envy leads us to make a range of assumptions we may come to regret.
Contentment is the antidote to consumerism. It's a gift from God that begins with the disciplines of gratitude and learning to appreciate. Try adding these to your life and see what you notice.
Our next update will look at how we might rebuild the other key thing consumerism steals from us: Community! We've looked at the problems, we'll start to look at the solution then.