28 November 2014

Stuff, Stuff, and More Stuff

Today is Black Friday in the United States. Most stores have significant sales that are worth taking advantage of, especially if you're interested in making large purchases. Furthermore, many people have the day off because of Thanksgiving (yesterday), so they have time to go shopping, including potentially waiting in line for the best, and thus limited, deals.

For those of us who like to buy things cheaply (this is often known here as being Dutch), the sales on Black Friday are appealing. However, the push to acquire more stuff seems to go against the spirit of being thankful and content - the focus of yesterday as we celebrate Thanksgiving.

The messages of consumerism and materialism feel more prevalent to me here in the United States. Perhaps I am more susceptible here, as I know the stores and products better. Perhaps it is because things really are cheaper (and thus a better deal). Perhaps it is the 1 inch thick pile of advertisements that come enclosed in our Sunday newspaper. Perhaps it is the fact that I have much less than I did six months ago, having given away much of my stuff and needing to get/buy more when I first came. Whatever the reason(s), the message seems to be that I need stuff, stuff and more stuff! And this is a lie.

How, though, do we as Christians help each other fight against the lies of consumerism and materialism? It's not like stuff is evil in itself. Much of it brings joy and good into our lives, and hospitality, giving, and resting/recuperating well are all made more challenging when there's a lack of material things. But how do we fight against the selfishness and entitlement that often accompany unchecked desires to accumulate more stuff? How do we even begin to ask each other how the accumulation of stuff is good?

I don't know the answers, but I am looking. And trying to listen. I appreciate the idea of Giving Tuesday: it's a very pointed reminder in the midst of being told to buy stuff for myself that it is also good and proper to give away. I do want to be a generous giver, but how do we balance that with saving responsibly, especially if we buy a house in the near future? I also want to learn to talk about money with others, and I want to learn better how to hold on to my own stuff loosely. There is something about recognizing that someone else could be more blessed by some of my stuff that helps me remember that I'm to hold losely to the gifts that God has given me.

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