Although it is obviously pervasive in our North American culture, I thought I was doing “pretty good” in fighting my tendencies to accumulate material possessions. Hadn’t I been “flylady-ing” (she’s super cute, BTW) for years? Pursuing a simpler lifestyle? (a la Joshua Becker, Becoming Minimalist)
The Holy Spirit has increasingly been bringing materialism to the forefront in my life. Nudging it in front of me repeatedly until I finally acknowledged it. How? It sounds so ridiculous to spell it out. We are on a budget so I try to buy second hand if possible, if that will help cover my embarrassment to admit:
One is an expensive leather belt I wanted to win on eBay, and didn’t. Why didn’t I enter a higher max bid?? How come I didn’t set my watch alarm so I could try to snipe it at the last minute? Oh, how I coveted that belt.
Another is a set of micro doggy toys that my daughter would have LOVED – and I saw at a thrift shop for $4 but my husband didn’t want me to buy them, stating that my daughter already has a lot of doggy toys (she does, but not MICRO ones!). OH, how I hemmed and hawed for DAYS afterwards and wished I would have just talked him into it or gone back the next day myself. (I went back the next week and they were gone)
And today’s is a kids’ toy that I had listed to sell (trying to simplify and clear out STUFF, remember). I hadn’t even actually given it to my kids, and had picked it up off a swap and buy site but decided we didn’t need it. I tested it out to make sure it worked right before the person came to pick it up. And it was SO COOL! I didn’t want to sell it! I tried messaging the person to see if they had left yet so I could change my mind!!! (They had.) Argh!
So here, three silly examples in the last while of insignificant personal possessions that I agonized over afterwards. Definitely spent a disproportionate of time thinking about, regretting, and longing after. Coveting. Envying. Doesn’t exactly sound Biblical, does it? One could even say – Sinful.
And I felt ashamed. Why do “things” have such power over me? Why do I struggle with wanting to buy more? better? newer? When God has blessed me with overabundance already? We are constantly bombarded with wonderful, beautiful, neat, fun, and exciting THINGS. It’s too much for me to handle on my own – my weak human flesh-nature.
And I think this is the place we need to get to in our weaknesses – “it’s too much for me! Too hard! I can’t DO it!” We need to realize we need help from OUTSIDE ourselves. Our sin nature IS too big for us to overcome on our own. We DO need outside help – supernatural help. And this is where the Holy Spirit comes in. To sanctify us. To draw us closer to Christ-likeness. To help us throw off the sin that grabs at our ankles and winds its way up our legs, ever growing, ever consuming until it strangles us with its mighty grip. We aren’t abandoned to wallow in our sin. We can surrender ourselves to Jesus and His Lordship of our lives and throw off the chains of sin.
And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:11
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2
UPDATE: I prayed and told God that these were too much for me, that I couldn’t let go on my own. And their power over me was broken! 🙂 We need to get to the end of OURSELVES and surrender to JESUS – this is where we find freedom!
Economic Materialism – Definition
Consumer research typically looks at materialism in two ways. One as a collection of personality traits and one as an enduring belief or value.
Materialism as a personality trait
Belk’s conceptualization of materialism includes three original personality traits.
- Nongenerosity – an unwillingness to give or share possession with others.
- Envy – desire for other people’s possessions.
- Possessiveness – concern about loss of possessions and a desire for the greater control of ownership.
Materialism as a value
Acquisition centrality is when acquiring material possession functions as a central life goal with the belief that possessions are the key to happiness and that success can be judged by people’s material wealth.
Growing materialism in America
In the United States, there is a growing trend of increasing materialism in order to pursue the “good life.” Research shows that recent generations are focusing more on money, image, and fame than ever before – especially since the generations of Baby Boomers and Generation X.
In one survey, 1 in 14 Americans would murder someone for 3 million dollars and 65% of respondents said they would spend a year on a deserted island to earn $1 million.
A survey conducted by the University of California and the American Council on Education on a quarter of a million new college students found that their main reason for attending college was to gain material wealth. From the 1970s to the late 1990s, the percentage of students who stated that their main reason for going to college was to develop a meaningful life philosophy dropped from more than 80% to about 40%, while the purpose of obtaining financial gain rose from about 40% to more than 75%.
Materialism and happiness
However, an increase in material wealth and goods in America has actually had little to no effect on the well-being and happiness of its people. Skitovsky called this a “joyless economy” in which people endlessly pursue comforts to the detriments of pleasures.
Using two measures of subjective well-being, one study found that materialism was negatively related to happiness, meaning that people who tended to be more materialistic were also less happy. When people derive a lot of pleasure from buying things and believe that acquiring material possessions are important life goals, they tend to have lower life satisfaction scores. Materialism also positively correlates with more serious psychological issues such as depression, narcissism and paranoia.
However, the relationship between materialism and happiness is more complex. The direction of the relationship can go both ways. Individual materialism can cause diminished well-being or lower levels of well-being can cause people to be more materialistic in an effort to get external gratification.
Instead, research shows that purchases made with the intention of acquiring life experiences such as going on a family vacation make people happier than purchases made to acquire material possessions such as a car. Even just thinking about experiential purchases makes people happier than thinking about material ones. (Source)