A few days ago I was cleaning my room, and in being true to my childhood self, simultaneously having a 90's/00's dance party. There was some Lauryn Hill, John Mayer (duh), and then this song from my childhood came on:
"We live in a greedy little world That teaches every little boy and girl To earn as much as they can possibly Then turn around and spend it foolishly
All we ever want is more A lot more than we had before So take me to the nearest store..."
For those of you who don't recognize the song, and/or were fortunate enough to have better taste in music at the ripe, old age of eight, these are the lyrics to Ka-Ching! by Shania Twain. Aside from throwing it way back to 4th grade, the song got me thinking...
The message highlights, what I believe, to be one of the biggest problems in Western society- consumerism. If you're not quite familiar with the term, not to worry, that's what Wikipedia is for! According to good, old Wikipedia, "Consumerism is a social and economic order and ideology that encourages the acquisition of goods and services in ever-increasing amounts." In plain English, consumerism is the idea that we should buy more stuff forever. Sounds ridiculous, right? But here's the funny thing: we buy into this lie all the time (no pun intended). I can't tell you how many times I've checked my email in the morning only to find 15 messages informing me of crazy sales on who-knows-what, and before you know it, I've already convinced myself that I need a 20-piece set of garden gnomes- because they're 70% off, of course! And I'm not even going to get started on television informercials. Does anyone remember the Sham-WOW guy? Enough said. The reality is that we're constantly being bombarded by all different kinds of media telling us that we need insert useless thing here in our lives, whatever that thing may be. And so many times we believe it.
On a larger scale, however, the ideology of consumerism has a much deeper impact on the soul. Let me explain. A few years ago, I made the decision- against my better judgment- to walk into Holt Renfrew (always a mistake). I wandered around the store for a bit, browsing through the plethora of severely over-priced items, when I happened upon the most beautiful purse that I had ever seen. I then proceeded to find the price tag, and lo and behold, it was nowhere to be found. I probably should've taken that as my first hint to leave the purse and walk away, but instead, I decided to ask a sales associate. My heart sunk as she nonchalantly stated the price: $5000. Excuse my ratchetness, but guys, that's the equivalent of 3597 Junior Chickens. Needless to say, I walked away, disappointed. I spent the rest of that day with my family, but every now and again, an image of the purse popped into my mind. I wanted it badly, and the fact that I couldn't have it made me feel uncomfortable. How is it that I was able to go from being content with everything I had, to feeling insecure about myself at the "hands" of a purse?
I was listening to a three-part series by Father Anthony Messeh entitled, "Burnt Out," over the winter break, and in the first part of the series, he made an interesting point about how we're constantly in competition with ourselves to have more, achieve more, and ultimately, be the best. Don't get me wrong, it's great to work towards a goal, but when does it end? When do we finally have rest? Does it end when I finally get that purse? Does it end when you finally get that car? Or that house? Or that dream job? Probably not. The fact of the matter is, there will come a time when all of these things that we desire will become outdated. And when that time comes, society will tell you that you need to get back on the road, and keep chasing the next best thing- and honestly, it's exhausting. If we're going to be running a race for the rest of our lives, we need to be able to define the prize at the end of the finish line. So, what exactly are we all chasing? Because it's clear that the purse, the house, the car, and the job, are all just band-aids for something so much deeper. Maybe some of us are looking for a stamp of approval from others? Perhaps some of us are seeking spiritual satisfaction in material items? Or, maybe we're all just longing to be happy? Whatever it is that we all long for, it's important to realize that contentment is not a product of the praise of others, or of the material things we attain; it's actually a product of being thankful for all of the blessings that we already have. We can find contentment in our everyday lives by simply being thankful for things like our health, or our family and friends. I think a lot of the time we can get so caught up in attaining material things, that we forget about the simple truths of life, such as the fact that tomorrow is not guaranteed. What a tragedy it would be for someone to leave this Earth, still chasing contentment, and never having attained it. When we stop stressing over material things, choosing contentment becomes an easier feat. Don't let the endless amounts of material desires in this world steal your joy.
I know choosing contentment is a lot easier said than done, but I would like to conclude with the example of our Lord, Jesus Christ. He spoke the entire universe into existence by a single word, yet He chose to be born in a manger, and to live out His three and a half years of ministry as a nomad. He didn't worry about the sandals on His feet, the clothes on His back, or the food He would eat. What strikes me the most about Christ is that He had the power to make a different life for Himself; one with pleasure and riches, not lacking any earthly possessions. And still, He chose to live without any of those things. I don't believe that choice was an accident. He lived simply, and in doing so, provided us with a template for how to live a life of true contentment. So whatever material burden you may be carrying, lay it down at the feet of Christ. Instead, take up His burden, and you'll see that with Him, less is more.
~Come to me all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.~