Christmas and Consumerism

Please note, the following is not an appeal for money or really about SCYM at all – just some things I’ve been pondering this weekend.

I don’t know if this is the first year it happened or just the first year that I paid attention, but you knew it was coming. As the doors of a Wal-Mart on Long Island opened at 5:00 am on Black Friday, a maintenance worker was trampled to death by a bargain-seeking crowd. Not only did frenzied shoppers step past the injured man, reports stated that many customers became irate when told the store was closing early due to the man’s death.

Sickened. Shocked. Saddened. I am, and I hope you are too. Neither you nor I were there. We did not take part. I like to believe that we would have acted differently. We are not responsible. And yet – why do I feel in part responsible? Why does my gut say that our culture of consumerism is in part responsible? Why do I grieve over what we have become? Because while it’s easy to point fingers and say, “How dare they,” when I examine myself I realize that the same ugly impulse, the impulse to get and to clutch, is found deep within me.

There is nothing wrong with things. The Bible makes it clear. There is even nothing wrong with the pleasure that things can bring. I truly believe this. But there is a sickness in a culture that says I must get, I deserve things. I deserve things I cannot pay for. Once I have the things I deserve, I want more things. Because consumerism at its worst puts its death grip on our soul, choking out the life of Jesus in us, and we don’t even realize it until we see the horrible extremes it can reach in an angry crowd.

It’s in me, this sickness of discontent. Much more than I want to admit. It shouldn’t be, but it is, and I suspect it always will be. I confess that I often think things like:

My six-year-old coat is starting to look a little shabby. I deserve a new one.

My kids wear a lot of hand-me-downs – clothes that look great – but they’re not clothes I picked out myself. I deserve to buy them new things, so that they look even cuter.

Our kitchen is outdated looking – why not redo it now and pay it back later, so that we can enjoy it?

The angry crowd reminds me of what I have potential to become, if I let these thoughts go unchecked. They are far from God-honoring; in fact, the greed and discontent in them keep me from being sensitive to his voice. So, for this holiday season, I am resolving a few things that will help fight the chokehold of consumerism in my soul, disciplines that I hope will put my spirit more in line with God’s:

I will be content with the coat I have for another winter. In fact, I may even get out the leather reconditioner and see if I can touch it up.

When I go out to eat this holiday season, I will order less than I want and tip more than I need to.

I will give to someone who needs it.

I will be glad for my kids’ hand-me-downs and the people they came from.

When I am shopping, I will smile at store workers and thank them when they help me. I will not roll my eyes at the customer who is too slow, the person who takes my parking spot, or the person in front of me with too many items. These people are all my neighbors.

At least once, I will put paper money in a red kettle, not coins.

I will publish this list, to hold myself accountable.

May we all know and hold onto the one who came to serve and to give this Christmas season. May we all slow down, breathe deep, thank God for what we have, and give generously of ourselves.

Faith Bosland
Executive Director

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