October 25, 2009

Denying the Materialistic Impulse

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:30 am by Editorial Team

Something in our cultural mindset forces us to buy something the minute we determine a deficiency or “need” (or usually when something breaks). Blame advertising, but the question we as followers of Christ face is “how do we respond to the rampant materialism around us?”

Our house attempts to follow a discernment process when buying items larger than $100. This process isn’t intended to prevent each other from buying things, but to help us think past our impulses and decide whether the true value we should be placing on the item warrants purchasing it. We also encourage each other to buy used goods as much as possible. Sometimes the discernment process can be as simple as a sarcastic response, but it forces each of us to think it through a little more.

I bought a new mountain bike. I’ve been riding a lot and decided I was serious enough for a real (expensive) one. I went to a bike shop and tried a couple of models, and found the one I was most interested in. When I brought up the desire to purchase, it was suggested that I buy a used one, to which I had numerous reasons why I couldn’t. But I looked any way, and after a few weeks, I found a used bike in new condition that fit me.

We’ve had many other purchase discussions as a house. But personally, technology is the worst. We are so enslaved to it, that when it breaks, we waste no time in repairing or replacing it, often regardless of cost.

Our disposition towards materialism is not sinful in that we consume material goods, but that we respond on impulse towards these materials. Our ability to rapidly replace items and our desire to do so has become an idolized form of security. As people who follow Christ in a materially dispossessed Kingdom, we must proclaim independence from these things.

My point is not that we shun the material world altogether. Instead, we find ways of denying dependence on these items. One way is simply to halt our impulse to buy things. It is good to have a cooling off period before we buy or replace something, simply to remind us of life before we had that item. And the aspect of accountability to a community forces us to re-evaluate our logic and passions behind the act of purchasing an item. Maybe our desire is re-affirmed, or maybe we discover that the purchase does not need to be made after all.

Our society advertises every product as a necessity and creates a certain urge within us to act. We must constantly seek ways to deny the impulse, reminding ourselves the proper place of the material within Kingdom life.

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