We are used to being treated like consumers. The media tells us what we lack and should want. Corporations time the introduction of new products to maximize our spending on new things.
Being a consumer is even touted at the solution to national problems. Remember what we were told after the 9/11 attacks? The best thing we could do was go out and spend money and buy stuff.
Consumerism sustains identity by providing an answer to the question “what do I have?“. Comfort and security are provided by the accumulation of stuff, as well as provide us a mode of comparison with others. It is a way to cover our shame.
When driven by consumerism, happiness and fulfillment are always just out of reach. Like the carrot on the stick, there is always the demand for something new. “I’ll be happy when I get….“, “I’ll be satisfied when I have a new…” are constant refrains.
It focuses us on our-self without an awareness of the other because the other is a consumer too and may get what I want. If I can’t have what I want, then I move on.
Yet, being a consumer is not limited to smart phones, food, and cars. It has also become a way of life within the church.
Rather than devotion, church is about entertainment.
Rather than seeking transformation through the Gospel, church must be polished and packaged.
Church choice is made based on what meets our needs. If a church does not meet expectations, there is always another that will try.
The problem is that Jesus – the One for whom we have church – came to serve rather than be served. In other words, He did not come to consume, but to provide. Provide hope. Provide life. Provide redemption and restoration. Provide rest.
Our response is to demand more.
In a book on leadership I was reading this morning, the solution presented was to help people develop more outward focus rather than inward focus.
But that is just another way to change our self. It is well meaning self effort. An offering of works without faith.
Without a shift in identity, forcing ourselves to be outward focused will just lead to another way to provide a sense of wholeness apart from Christ.
I would suggest that a consumer identity results from a lack of inward focus. Consumerism is VERY outward focused. Having not examined the heart to see what is driving it, what is competing for space with Christ, the consumer is not able to understand their motivation for consuming.
The light of Christ must be shed on the heart.
Then question of significance can be answered with finality.
What do I have? I have everything – wholeness, worth, purpose, meaning – in the love of Christ and it can never be taken away.
Do you struggle with being a consumer? In what ways do you find your value in consumerism?