Let’s talk about contentment—Do you ever wonder why you always want the new iPhone? Why you want a new car when yours still runs great? Why you want to go to Target when you feel sad?
They say the average American sees over 5,000 ads per day. Our society is overrun with consumerism that is aimed at your subconscious. In the 1950s, advertisement agencies started using propaganda tactics developed by Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays. His business partner, Paul Mazur said, “We must shift America from a needs to a desires culture.… People must be trained to desire, to want new things, even before the old have been entirely consumed. We must shape a new mentality. Man’s desires must overshadow his needs.”. It worked. In the last 50 years, the average house size in America has doubled and the average wardrobe has tripled, not to mention the $15K in credit card debt the average American has.
The thing is, the state of well-being has been on the decline since the incline of materialism. Consumerism is promising happiness, status, and value, but not delivering. I have been there, emptying my Target bag of clearance things I didn’t need, using After Pay for shoes I couldn’t afford, buying a new car, the list goes on. Where I expected to feel elated, I felt, well… nothing. Beyond that, we often don’t stop to consider the impact consumerism is having on creation. And what about the slave labor used to keep up with the demands, treating image-bearers of God as commodities.
Jesus is always after the heart. He knows there is a fine line between having things, and things having you. Did you know that 25% of Jesus’ teachings are about money and possessions? He warns about their power to rule our hearts. In compassion, he shows us that true joy is when he has our heart. He warns in Luke 12:15, “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
“Jesus is always after the heart.”
How do we break free from our need to consume, for things to define our status and value? 1 Timothy 6:6-8 gives us a clue, “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.” Gratitude and contentment reorient our lives to see what we have as a gift. To see God as the giver of all things and our true source releases us from the need to grasp and grab.
In Hebrews 13, we are told again, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have.” We can trust that what we have today is enough and we are promised tomorrow’s provision when it goes on to say, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Practicing gratitude and contentment is not the same as renouncing possessions, it’s about putting possession in the proper perspective.
By consuming less, we are not only relying on our God for our fulfillment, but we create margin in time and money. Acts 20 tells us, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” That word blessed means “happy” in greek. With the time you spent mindlessly shopping online, you could use it to build relationships, volunteer, or enjoy nature. And the money you save on not buying unnecessary things? Well, I don’t have to tell you the good you could do with that! When you practice gratitude and contentment, you realize your blessings and make room to spread it to others.
A Blog by Hannah Zapf