Last time, in the consideration of “Frenzy and the Soul of a Culture”,we saw that the dueling frenzies of Black Friday and over the Powerball lottery arose from the same source—a relentless dedication to the idol of More. Materialism – valuing present things and stuff over eternal truths and souls — has a chokehold on many individuals and thus on much of our nation’s culture, identity and future.
Is there an antidote to the frenzy? Or is this a virus with no cure that turns people into mindless, grasping, purchasing zombies?
The idol of More does not relinquish soul-ground easily. It sets hooks deep in hearts and confirms its assumed priority through constant advertising and peer pressure. Getting free as a society will only happen as individuals are liberated from the chains of materialism.
How do you get free—and live free — of the idol of More?
1. Identify the things that last: “We brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out…the things that are seen are transient and the things that are not seen are eternal.” (1Tim.4:7, 2 Cor. 4:18) Which consumes more of your attention or captures your affections? Confusion about temporary and forever is rampant and shapes everything about our lifestyle. Eternal things are few, but most precious: God, His glory, Word & gospel; and precious, God-made people who are eternal souls. Everything else burns. Live accordingly.
2. Clarify your “enough”: Materialism will take as much ground in our mind, heart and garage as we will give. And it always seems to be just a little beyond what we currently possess. The apostle Paul wrote, “if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” (1 Tim. 4:8) Have you ever considered what it would take for you to be utterly content? Have you run the numbers or compared that to your current lifestyle choices? How much do you need—really? Live more simply and you will know more joy.
3. Trust your heavenly Father’s provision: “Do not be anxious about what you will eat or wear…your heavenly Father knows what you need…God will richly supply every need of yours.” (Matt.6:31-32, Phil. 4:19) Contentment is directly tied to trust. God knows you, His plans for you—and what you need to live it. He will provide, because He is wise and kind. You can rest in Him.
4. Live like a generous manager, not a nervous owner: “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof…every good and perfect gift comes down from above, coming down from the Father…a person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given Him from heaven.” (Ps.24:1, James 1:17, Jn.7:27) if you’re not going to need as much, what will you do with the excess? You have been given resources—financial and otherwise—not only to meet your needs, but to help others and extend the Father’s heart to them. God intends us to hold things loosely and to have open hands towards the broken, needy and spiritually lost we encounter. All ministries have plenty of money to make a transforming difference in their community; it’s just that most of it is tied up in the car payments, mortgages and credit card bills of their members. Get out of debt—and give it away!
5. Become an advertising agnostic: “We take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor.10:5) – including our thoughts about money, spending and stuff. Advertising, by its nature, is intended to create dissatisfaction in your heart (thus battling contentment) and provide a substitute savior (product) that can satisfy that burning longing. It’s a siren voice that will dash your soul against the rocks and keep you lashed to the altar of the idol of More. Work to discern the voice of the Enemy – even when it comes with a snappy tune and really cool graphics.
6. Soak your heart under a gospel fountain: “whoever drinks of the water I give him will never be thirsty again. The water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (Jn.4:14) Any “thing” is a poor substitute for the life available in Jesus. Stuff is mere sand that we drink at peril of choking our soul and our culture. Only Jesus satisfies the deepest longings, provides for the most genuine needs and enables us to be most fully human. Gaze long on His beauty, His perfections, His sacrifice, His love, His meaning, “and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”
The idol of More must be torn down and trampled so it can no longer capture hearts, families and communities with its smiling death. But the removal of that idol needs to begin in the hearts of the people who claim Jesus as Lord.
So, if you’re His, join me in the pursuit of eternal values, contentment & simplicity, trust, generosity, discernment, and gospel delight. It’s the only way to satisfy souls and calm the frenzy in our culture.
What helps you battle the pull of More and pursue simplicity?