Because we live in the most affluent nation on earth, it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that accumulation of stuff is the pathway to fulfillment and redemption. Sadly, what most people never discover is that what we thought would bring satisfaction doesn’t. Instead we’re left only wanting more. I think about this every year when the Christmas shopping season rolls around. It’s here. I saw my first Christmas commercial last night.
There’s a difficult lesson we have such a hard time learning: those who believe that things bring happiness will never find the lasting happiness they are looking for. They keep grasping for more, but the pit of material desire is bottomless. No matter how much you make or have, you will always want to have more. And the more you have, the more you want to have. The late Mother Theresa said it this way: “Once the longing for money comes, the longing also comes for what money can give – superfluities – nice rooms – luxuries at table – more clothes – fans – and so on. Our needs will increase – for one thing brings another and the result will be endless dissatisfaction.”
Many kids today believe their standard of living will be higher than their parents. Why shouldn’t they? We’ve given them everything. . . which has fostered a deeply embedded sense of materialism and entitlement. Truth is, this generation might be on a collision course with downward mobility. In reality, that would be a blessing. Our children and teens have been allowed to grow up with such a high standard of living that there will be nowhere for them to go but down. The sad result will be that those kids who expect to find meaning and purpose in accumulating more money and things will be faced with meaninglessness and purposelessness. Their sense of self-worth will be destroyed. The worst possible result of never having enough or trying to hold onto to what they have, could be an increased number of young adults who suffer from anxiety, stress, depression and/or choose to cope with their “failure” through destructive diversionary addictions. . . or even suicide. They will have allowed their premature affluence to destroy them.
Youth workers and parents. . . are you aware that ultimately, it’s the God-shaped vacuum that they’re desperately trying to fill? Money and stuff will never fill it. Yet, our culture, our non-stop marketing cycle, and our example point to the fact that we functionally believe that our redeemer is money and stuff. But if we love our children, we will do all that we can to point them away from this materialistic road of lies that leads nowhere.
Sadly, we all have too much. And double-sadly, we are always trying to give our kids more. At no time is this reality more evident than at Christmas. It’s for this reason that we must go out of our way to use the month of December to point our kids to a better way. In fact, the Jesus we celebrate through consumerism and materialistic idolatry is the Jesus who came to set us free from that stuff. Yet, we continue to choose prison over liberation.
Have you ever wondered how they catch all the monkeys that you and I see on our trips to the local zoo? The rather primitive traps they used to use in Africa were quite unique. A coin, button, or some other shiny metallic object is placed in a long-necked glass jar that is then attached to a tree. As the monkeys swing through the trees, the reflection of the sun on the shining object catches their eye. Reaching into the jar poses no problem at all for the curious monkeys. But when they try to pull their closed fists out of the narrow openings, they can’t do it. To gain freedom, all the monkeys need to do is let go of the worthless object. Instead, the monkeys sit by the jar holding onto the object until their captors come to take them away. “Stupid monkeys,” you say. I know. But are they that much different from you and me?
What are the essential teaching points that we must faithfully communicate if we hope to lead our kids out of the trap of entitlement and materialism. Let me share three questions and their answers:
What is success? True success in life is faithfulness to God and obedience to his commands, whether your net worth is 10 cents or 10 million dollars.
What do you and I want our children to become? Our desire for our children should be the same as our heavenly Father’s desire for them: that they become like Christ in all things.
What must you and I do to make this happen? We must know the truth as it is contained in God’s Word, talk about it, live it, model it, experience it, and prayerfully trust God to change our children’s hearts and minds.
C.S. Lewis once said, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probably explanation is that I was made for another world.” This month, let’s point the kids we know and love to that other world.
As you ponder how you are going to address these matters with the kids you know and love, take some time to digest the information about teens, money, and preferences in this helpful infographic. . .