We’ve arrived in December, which means it’s officially “the season to be merry” – even though some retailers would want us to believe it arrived around the end of August. For many of them, it’s also “the season for wanting more,” so the sooner the better.
Living in a consumer society, it’s our annual opportunity to exercise our skills at conspicuous consumption. Shoppers, some proudly wearing scars from their annual Black Friday pilgrimages, will invest many hours over the next few weeks keeping cash registers humming and warming the hearts of merchandisers. Some will spend money they don’t have to buy things they don’t need for people they don’t like. All in the spirit of displaying “good will.”
It’s a cautionary time when we should beware of greed – AKA “the Monster of More,” as preacher Bill Hybels calls it.
We all wrestle with it. It’s nice to get new clothes, whether you’re very fashionable or just get tired of the old duds. Or books, if you’re among those who still appreciate bound volumes made of actual paper and real ink. Or the latest electronic gizmos. There’s no shortage of those, and there’s always a newer version of what you already have. Or toys for all ages. They too seem unlimited in supply.
When I was a boy, I loved paging through the annual Sears & Roebuck “Wish Book,” conjuring fantasies of what treasures I might find gaily wrapped under the tree on Christmas morning. We learn about greed at a very early age.
So, it’s time to ask the tough questions: Ones like, “How much is enough?” Or, “How much is too much?”
There are no simple, precise answers to those questions. Especially since we’ve become conditioned for blurring the lines between needs and wants. However, the Scriptures say much about how we can overcome the “Monster of More.” Here’s a sampling:
“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). Contrary to what “prosperity theology” might teach, this doesn’t mean God promises to provide whatever we want. Instead, it gives the assurance that if we find delight in the Lord and make Him preeminent in our lives, He will be the determiner of what we desire.
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). Similarly, Jesus taught that when God is given top priority in our lives, we can be assured He will provide for all our needs. We may still have “wants,” but not any real needs.
“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Philippians 4:11-12). In our materialistic society, contentment is not a virtue that is widely encouraged. The “Monster of More,” we’re told, is our friend – a motivator for striving to earn and acquire more. In God’s economy, however, contentment is highly prized, as the apostle Paul wrote.
How can we cultivate contentment when everything around us argues that we need more and more? The apostle presented the secret in the next verse: “I can do through [Christ] who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13), including being content with our present circumstances.
Finally, there’s the old stand-by, Christ’s exhortation that is often uttered as a cliché, but holds true just the same: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). By striving for excellence in the art of giving, we shift our focus off ourselves and onto others. At the same time, we discover that through giving, we will receive more than we could ever have imagined.
So, this year let’s try to cut the “Monster of More” down to size! If we succeed, we might even be able to nickname him “Less.”
Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly re-published, “Business At Its Best,” “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. To read more of Bob Tamasy’s writings, you can visit his blog, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com, or his website (now being completed), www.bobtamasy-readywriterink.com. He can be emailed at email@example.com.