Buying Happiness/Worth

I love the above video because it is great satire. Satire is best when it hits just enough on the truth but then expands it to absurdity and this video does this with great skill. So the video is old: like 2 years old and you would think that in a recession it really wouldn’t apply right? I mean almost everyone knows someone who is unemployed either through layoffs or position termination. So one would think that in a tough economic time like this people would spend less at Christmas time and look for new and creative ways to find happiness in the holidays. You would think….

But guess what.  According to USA Today, this year America set a record for spending this holiday season.  The previous record of spending over the holiday season was $453 billion (yes…billion) in 2007.  This year we set the new record 9 billion higher at $462 billion dollars. (as a side note The Week assures me that because the population increased by 8 million since then we actually spent less per person on average….I guess that is a small consolation) So at a time when we hear how many are without work and struggling with day-to-day life and bills, how can this happen?

I don’t have a concrete answer, but it seems that consumerism is a powerful, powerful force. We are constantly bombarded with messages that our happiness and worth comes through material things. The iPad (or any slate computer) will make our lives better because it is lightweight and we won’t have to lug around those heavyweight laptops anymore. The new car that will somehow transform our life (and make our neighbors jealous…which obviously gives us status…which then obviously makes us happy because other people want what we have). I know the message, it seems so right. Every day I look at the new cell phone technology that is coming and the latest Apple rumors to see what the next “best” thing is that will make me happy. I get it.

And the fact is this: it does make us happy if only for awhile. It doesn’t bring lasting happiness because it doesn’t last. It is all fleeting to be replaced soon by the next must have happiness thing. I see it everyday with my 5 year old. There is a constant want for another thing that will make him happy and it does for a minute, an hour, a day, sometimes a week, hardly ever longer then that. There is never enough and yet he always finds something that brings him happiness even if he doesn’t get that toy. My goodness you should see all the “inventions” he has made out of literal junk and he loves them.

Stacy and I have begun to get worn out by the “clutter” of life. Stuff fills space, gets forgotten and a couple months later when we are cleaning we wonder: “Why did we get this?”  I wonder how much of the stuff bought this holiday season will be held in the hands of someone else with that question running through their head… That stuff may have brought us momentary happiness, but Stacy and I have found that spending time with each other, spending time with the kids, spending time with others has brought us a never ending source of happiness. As we have released some of the clutter we have realized the time and space we free up and realize we aren’t missing anything.

This year we participated in Advent Conspiracy at Central United Methodist Church. We spent less on the kids and didn’t give one another gifts because we realized we had more than enough and we gave that money to help people in Liberia who don’t have access to clean water.  Clean water! A thing we take for granite is something that people still don’t have access to in other parts of the world. If we really look around we begin to realize that our homes are filled with empty and often unused rooms while at the same time individuals are without shelter. We throw away food and still there are people in our own towns who often go without food over the entire day. It breaks my heart, and it breaks even more when I hear that we spent all that money during the holidays to show our love to one another with material things and their fleeting happiness….

As a Christian I am reminded of and convicted by the words of Jesus in chapter 25 of Matthew’s Gospel:

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (The Message)

Lord, give us a heart to care for the least of these and find our happiness in You!