December 11, 2001
Norman Douglas says “You can tell the ideals of a nation by its advertisements.”
Take a look. Most of the ads in today’s media are for cars, alcoholic beverages, computer equipment, beauty products, clothes, household furniture, sports equipment, restaurants, life insurance, food and entertainment.
Translation? The ideals of our nation are those things that spell comfort, security, and the good life. Besides, marketing experts know how to appeal to our senses. If something tastes good, sounds good, looks good and feels good, it is a sure sale. Add the possibility of making an impression on the neighbors and consumers will line up and buy two.
Not that comfort or the good life is wrong. Our culture is well off and we should be thankful for what we have. However, our motivations are out of control. Instead of function or practicality, we opt for the biggest, the fastest, and the most expensive because these things will supposedly make us more popular, more powerful, more impressive.
More “stuff” does make some people happy, at least some of the time. I can remember my youthful desire for a big house. After moving twenty-eight times, I have a big house — but the desire is long gone. Besides, I no longer have my youthful energy to clean it!
Growing older makes a person realize that satisfaction with “stuff” soon flies away. The cosmetics work for a little while, but external beauty will not last. Clothes look good for a season but they soon wear out or go out of fashion.
Impressive achievements fare a little better yet soon someone else is in the limelight, just as a fancy car rapidly becomes last year’s model along with computers and other gizmos. No matter how up-to-date we are, the calendar keeps flipping to the next day, week, month, and year, leaving us wheezing in its dust.
Jesus knew we would have problems with “stuff” so offered this warning: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven. . . . for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
The first of the Ten Commandments says it too—God wants first place in our hearts. He deserves it. He created us and He is greater than anything else; all the fame, fortune, or “stuff” that we could possibly accumulate. Besides that, He knows that we become like those things we worship. Imagine what will happen to us if we fix our hearts on “stuff” instead of Him.
This year, as every year, our family members make out a wish list for Christmas, mostly to help one another know what to put under the tree. I had three things on my list. One was a new Bible, the other two were smaller items. My son said, “There must be something else you want, something you’ve seen on TV or a new gadget?”
I scratched my head and finally came up with a couple more things but at the same time wondered if I’m finally listening to my own “sermons.” I am content. I don’t want more stuff.
Of course, I’m also thankful for the good life, the security we enjoy, and my “stuff” but I realize there is enough of it for six people. How can I make out a wish list when I really need to give away much of what I already have?
For many of us, we must honestly admit we have enough treasures to satisfy us for a long time. Right now, the one thing we need the most, regardless of how much “stuff” we have or want, is to more deeply know the heart of God and more actively live to please Him. Just imagine the change that would make in both our ideals and our advertising!