It is interesting that today’s reading in DNCIC is about advertising, and parents feeling the pressure to buy their children all the stuff they want but probably don’t need. I was shopping with a bunch of teenagers today. They were generally looking/buying stuff for their friends, but every now and again they saw some things that they thought were cool and expressed sudden strong wishes to have theme. If they had never entered those shops, never known about those things, would they have missed them? Not at all.
There is something in the human psyche that makes us want stuff we see. What is up with that? ‘Monkey see, monkey want’ comes to mind. Perhaps the ability to resist the urge to suddenly need everything you see comes with maturity. (And I don’t mean getting older, because there are plenty of 50-year olds that suddenly ‘need’ the latest phone/car/clothes/haircut because they’ve seen someone else with it.) Perhaps that is why God felt the need to include this kind of ‘wanting’ in the 10 commandments. “Do not covet your neighbours wife, or your neighbours donkey.” God knew what kind of trouble this envious longing for stuff that other people have would get us into trouble.
I don’t suppose many people in the developed world could get themselves into debt just by buying the essentials. They say the level of personal debt has risen dramatically in the last few decades. Instead of saving for things, people will buy on credit, and so begins the spiral of never ending credit-card payments, loans from the bank, etc. If you can’t afford the car – don’t buy it. If you can’t afford a fancy holiday abroad, don’t go. If buying that laptop means you can’t afford to buy food this week, sort your priorities out! If buying those fancy trainers means you can’t put money in the offering plate this week – what are you really valuing?
There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of verses in the Bible that teach us about money and the issues it causes. I can’t help but thinking many Christians are so caught up in the monetary and consumer ways of the world that they don’t even see a problem with it. Let me put it this way – how many hours away from your family are you going to have to work to pay for those presents this Christmas? The greatest present we can give our family is time.
Stuff bought out of guilt will soon lose its uniqueness. Anything electrical you buy will be out-of-date by the time it’s unwrapped. If you want something to be ‘cool’ and popular – what kind of relationships are you building with those around you? That you have to be the best, with all the latest stuff? Good for you. The first shall be last in heaven.
DNCIC recommendations for today:
• Are you planning to give your children everything they want this Christmas except the one thing they need the most – which is you?
• Have you made time to be there for their nativity play, Christingle service or end-of-term show?
• Are you going to sit down with them and talk through what they really want for Chrsitmas?
• Do nothing together. Idle away some time, fold up some paper and make some snowflakes to stick on the window; bake some mince pies together; plan some silly games to play at Christmas. Conversation often flows best when you are happily muddling away together at something like this.
“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.” Rachel Carson