I walked into Wal-Mart the night before Halloween and found that the promotional area just inside their doors was already 90% Christmas stuff. There's no sentimentality in consumerism. Before a holiday is even over (though I'm stooping quite low in order to refer to Halloween as a holiday), the boxes for the next one are being carted out. It's not, "Wasn't that nice?", but rather, "What's next?!"
And though I bristle at the crass consumerism of the retail world, I must admit that I do get distracted by the materialism of the culture in which I live. I want stuff. The world's teetering economies depend on us to do so. And I can't deny that the attraction of stuff has had an impact on my pursuit of God -- diluting my passion for Him. Sure, I've steered clear of most techno-gadgets and I don't even get any channels on my 21" TV. And sure, I've resisted putting new flooring in our house and I'm happy buying used clothes. But I can still end up wanting way more used shirts than any one person needs! And despite my restraints, I still feel drawn to look through the weekly flyers to see if there's more stuff to be had at a reasonable price!
So as I read Mark 4:18-19 recently, I felt a twinge of conviction and wondered at how fruitful my life is for God. Jesus is speaking there of the seed that fell among thorns, and He says, "but the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful."
I felt pricked (as if by a thorn) as I read those verses, and as I wondered at the amount of fruit in my life -- in terms of people being saved and in terms of the amount my life shines before an unsaved world the way Jesus said it should in the subsequent verses of 4:21-22. I felt pricked because I know that I'm rich (by most standards of this world), and I have many possessions that can cause me worry if there's trouble with them (car repairs, an appliance on the blink, a basement shifting, a memory-stick lost). And I can certainly feel "desires for other things" that distract me from the things that really matter to God. "Desires for other things enter in and choke the word and it becomes unfruitful." How much more fruitful would I be if my desire to see my neighbour saved was stronger than my desire for books or CDs or good sale prices? What an indictment that such things should appear more important to me!
I realize that the availability of so much stuff in this culture will always have the potential to be as thorns that want to choke the word in my life. But even with the retail world gearing up for the Christmas season, I must not let that happen! May I always want God's will for my life more than any temporary material pleasure. And may Jesus always be the Treasure of my heart, even amongst so much product glitz and excess!
© 2008 by Ken Peters