Of course I don't really need the new lipstick or necklace strategically displayed in the shop window. But what do we really need in life I tell myself? Food, water, air? Of course we need those things, but what about other stuff, FUN stuff. Is everything other than these basic necessities just excessive? Of course NOT! So what's one more lipstick I tell myself? I don't have this very particular shade; I don't have a bright fuchsia/orange pigmented lipstick in a matte finish.
So, I purchase it. I didn't need it, but I WANTED it. And so the cycle begins; WANT, CRAVE, CONSUME.
I can pretend that I am above it all. I've seen The Gruen Transfer. I know that advertisers play on my deepest insecurities and desires to buy their products. I know that corporations see my peers and me as consumer addicts; trend addicted people with purses full of plastic. And yet despite this knowledge, despite this ability to see behind the faÃ§ade and intent, I purchase the lipstick!
I know that the new fuchsia lipstick will not transform me into the company's latest celebrity endorser, no matter how much I want it to. And I also know that most of my friends, despite their fashion prowess, will probably overlook my latest lip colour. So why then did I purchase the lipstick?
Well I do have an answer for you; it's not a particularly insightful one, but it's an answer. So here it goes…I always want MORE! I want more necklaces; I want more make-up; I want more clothing. I always want more things to fill my closet and to adorn my body. I want, want, and want and then I consume, consume, consume!
We are all susceptible
This is usually the part where you say 'Well, sure we all want more. We are a part of a culture that lives and breathes consumerism. It's quite normal to want things'.
And you know what, I won't argue with you! I will not do it.
And why you may ask? Well partly because I agree with you. As human beings we are all susceptible to wanting more. It is within our very nature to desire things; things that give us comfort, joy, etc. There is nothing wrong with wanting something that makes us feel happy or pleased when we attain it. This is not wrong; wanting and then attaining something is not sinful.
What is sinful however is letting the WANTING rule our life. It's when the wanting turns into obsession, fixation and coveting. When something we want begins to consume our thoughts, that's when you have crossed into dangerous territory. The line that you have crossed is sort of like the thirty eighth parallel between South Korea and North Korea; it's probably best to stay on the South side, if you know what I mean.
When you begin to obsess about how a material possession will truly fulfill you in some way then your thinking has become unhealthy. Things can give us joy, but in no way should our joyfulness, self-worth and well-being become dependent on possessing that item. Basically if we don't attain something then we have to be ok with it, no matter how much we really, really want it. Superficial items will only ever produce superficial, or short-lived, emotions. So it doesn't matter how many lipsticks, necklaces, cars or nice suits we have because these items will never leave us feeling completely satisfied or fulfilled.
In Matthew 6:19-20 it says "Don't store up treasures here on earth, where they can be eaten by moths and get rusty, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where they will never become moth-eaten or rusty and where they will be safe from thieves".
We have to accept that as human beings we will consume and we will want things. Wanting something for decent and suitable reasons is not sinful. But coveting, fixation and obsession, well that's a whole different story. Craving and obsessing over an object and then allowing that to occupy our thinking is not storing our treasures in heaven, it is storing our treasures here on earth. When our thinking is superficially based then it is most certainly not God-centered.
So it's alright to consume. But we must consume prudently, without allowing possessions to occupy and rule our lives.
"Wherever your treasure is, there your heart and thoughts will also be" Matthew 6:21.
Alison Barkley lives in Newcastle and is a post graduate student at Macleay College in Sydney in book editing and publishing.
Alison barkley's archive of articles may be viewed at: www.pressserviceinternational.org/alison-barkley.html