This time chapter 6 'Too Much Stuff'
On no subject is Jesus more clear than on materialism: a life focused on possessions is a poor and misguided life. Over and again, he urges us to seek a spiritual path and a life of loving one another... Real treasures do not rust, run low on power, become obsolete, clutter up closets and garages, or rack up credit card debt.
Consumer Therapy is the default faith of a good many folks who call themselves Christians. We find more solace in shopping and purchasing, and devote more time and energy to it, than to prayer, devotion, study and worship. If we were to total up hours spent in a practice of faith compared to a practice of consumerism I bet we would be shocked.
I don't say this from a position of moral superiority. I struggle with it too.
I think that what Matthew Sleeth does here is get right to the heart of true Stewardship. In the mainline church tradition we tend to think that stewardship is giving money to the church.
What I have struggled to do in year after year of ministry and sermon after sermon on money and material possessions is to suggest that the simplest stewardship decision is giving money. The challenge is re-shaping our desires so that we are not wasting money on constant consumer actions that affect the environment in production, transportation and then disposal. Our desires will not be reshaped if we are spending more time in devotion to the mall gods by listening to their television advertisements and little to no time in prayer or bible study.
I would further recommend for those interested in this a book by Luke Timothy Johnson 'Sharing Possessions'
Although I disagreed with Johnson's initial argument that Christianity was not an ethic, his exploration of the importance of material goods and biblical survey on the topic was excellent.
I would also recommend William Cavanaugh's 'Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire'
Sleeth challenges the American Consumer Creed which tells us that we have the right to purchase whatever we want and use our money however we desire with this simple and direct statement:
The Christian is not at liberty to do whatever he likes. Christians are constrained by conviction to think about their lives, their actions, and their responsibilities...
How much we have, how we spend, how much we spend, all of these bear greater testimony to our true faith than the God-talk we utter.
So I'm going to do three things
1. Clean out the clutter, getting rid of the stuff I just don't need (in as environmentally responsible way as possible.)
2. Learn to live with less by filling my time with things that last; reading, music, family, service to the community and Creation
3. Observe a sabbath, on consumerism, not shopping on Sundays. Instead, we are inviting folks over for a Sabbath meal, focusing the support of relationships instead of the quick satisfaction of consumerism.
What can you do you pry yourself from the hold of consumerism?