The Cure to Our Consumer CulturePam Franz
Every day of our lives, we are the unwitting recipients of countless messages designed to foster discontentment. They work really well, convincing us that we need something more in order to be happy. In order to be worthy of love or respect. This is especially true this time of year when we should center our energy around giving thanks and the coming Lord, but still find ourselves caught up in a consumer culture.
According to one study, more than 60 percent of us always have something in mind that we look forward to buying. That’s what makes the following words seem so out of sync with our daily experience.
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. – 1 Timothy 6:6-8
What? Content with only food and clothing? Why, that’s downright un-American! Or so it seems. But do you know what else it is? It’s liberating.
Driving toward contentment
A number of years ago, my wife and I decided to give away one of our cars. It needed a cost prohibitive repair, so we gave it to a ministry that fixes cars and then gives them to needy families. The car had 165,000 miles on it and a number of dents. It had been hit a couple of times while parked in our former neighborhood in Chicago. A tree branch even fell on it once, denting the roof. Because of its high mileage, we never bothered to fix the dents.
When I was working in corporate America, I would drive into the parking lot of my office building and pass lots of new cars. Driving that old car gave me frequent opportunities to practice contentment, and there were definitely days when I needed extra practice!
We could all use a little more practice giving thanks, especially when gratitude isn’t the first emotion on our heart or in our mind.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
What helped me was reminding myself why we were avoiding the temptation to buy a nicer car. Having a paid-off car gave us the financial freedom to build savings targeted toward being able to leave my corporate job one day to write and speak full-time—something my wife and I both felt was the direction God was leading us. The more I dwelled on that bigger purpose, the more thankful I felt.
In the process, I saw firsthand that gratitude drives contentment and serves as a powerful antidote to our culture’s constant encouragement to want something more.
Instead of always having something in mind that we look forward to buying, what if we always had something in mind that we were thankful for?