Wednesday, 1 April 2009

The cure to the world’s financial disaster is more of that which caused the pain! (You didn’t believe that, did you?)

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal, or batteries run flat, leak and ruin the stuff. Or Microsoft stop providing you with updates, or your SIM card gives up or the goods become obsolete the year after you have bought them and so they all end up stored in garages, basements closets or in units on industrial estates while you are still paying for them on your credit card. Instead store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”.

Ok, so that is not exactly what Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-21, but could this be what He would be saying to us today?

In the UK the latest concern is that in reaction to the financial disaster, the British people are saving rather than spending when we are all told that what is required to get the economy going again is to consume again, to buy new goods. Yes, that’s it; the answer to the world’s financial disaster is to replace all that ‘old’ stuff that we all own.

This is of course what every almost advert in any media tries to persuade us to do. That TV that still works is now outdated and certainly needs replacing by one of those latest flat screen models. The latest Apple computer is so slim that it takes up no space at all compared to that ‘old’ one you bought only last year and you can now choose the colour as well. That jacket you have still fits perfectly, but its last year’s style as are those shoes you have on and have you seen just how low the fuel consumption is on the latest model cars?

While this happens and people are being persuaded to ‘spend, spend, spend’ and ‘borrow, borrow, borrow, (which is how the world got into this unholy financial mess in the first place) Planet Earth is treated as a never ending source of raw materials for the manufacture of never ending goods and a never ending dump facility, with many of its people a never ending resource to be exploited, if necessary by never ending violence, in a world where only those people that have the never ending means to buy and consume have any value whatsoever in the economic system.

Most people do not consider themselves to be ‘rich’. They might consider that Tiger Woods or Lewis Hamilton or Sir Richard Branson are, but not themselves, because they have become an integral part of a culture that works to (and always will) leave them dissatisfied with their lot. The fact is though that if you have a sound roof over your head, enough food to eat, clothes to wear, running water, a sewerage system, easy access to affordable transport and a computer then you are in the top 20% of the world’s population. Most people in the West are rich, but have allowed themselves to be blinded to the fact! Jesus is very clear about materialism; a life that is centred on our possessions is a life that is not fulfilled in His eyes.

We are, of course, all consumers of one sort or another, shelter, clothing, and our ‘daily bread’ of food and drink, but it is when we focus on possessions beyond our normal needs that we lose the focus of our lives also. It is then that companies such as ‘Mini Storage’, ‘Self Storage’ and ‘Lock and Store’ thrive and the possessions become the possessors as their owners pay to store items they may never use again. “Store up for yourselves treasure in heaven” He said, He did not say in a container in an industrial unit!

So what would Jesus prefer? Would He like to see us borrow more and spend it so we can mine and exploit both more resources and more people in order to buy more and more possessions and fill ever more facilities full of old stuff? Or would he like to see us being happy with what we need rather than what we want and to get rid of the excess by donating it to charity or sold and the money given to those in need? The answer He gave in Matthew 19:21 to the young man who asked Him what he should do to inherit eternal life was straight to the point “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." The young man went away sorrowing because his real God was his possessions.

My dread is that with all the money that is now being pumped into the world's economy (and just where did it all come from?) and the encouragement to spend, spend, spend we will eventually again be back where we started. In the words of George Santayana “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it”.

The simple fact is that the less we possess and the more we divest ourselves from our unneeded and unnecessary, the less we will be bound by earthly things and the better life will actually become for us, for the environment, and so for the future generations as yet unborn, who are having their futures decided and mortgaged by the present generation.


Margaret's Ramblings said...

Is it too much to hope that the present situation will teach us leasons that we will remember when this present crisis becomes just a memory. I do hope so but I am not hopeful.


equa yona(Big Bear) said...

"a life that is centred on our possessions is a life that is not fulfilled in His eyes."
An understatement Fr.Peter. The barn builder in Luke 12 heard this
"But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided"
Not merely unfulfilled, but lost.

Fr. Peter Doodes said...

In life unfulfilled and in death lost...

I have yet to take a funeral where the cortège has included a removal truck or have yet to talk to someone near death who has lamented losing 'that last sale'.

homebrewlibrarian said...

I enjoyed this the first time I read it and I'm enjoying it again!

After having spent the last few days clearing around the furniture of my friend the owner of the building so that it could get moved out so renovations of his unit could begin, I wonder anew what power all his stuff has over him. We filled a 15' x 15' unit with just furniture! The rest of the stuff is still there laying about.

Jesus' comment that you can't serve God and money could also be interpreted as not being able to serve God because your stuff is more important. My goal is to be rid of everything for which I have no regular use long before I shuffle off this mortal coil. I'm down to having all my earthly possesions (except for car, bicycle and some gardening equipment) fit into my 600 sqft apartment. And I still think I have too much stuff!

Maybe it's a good thing I got rid of my tv seven years ago? Not reading the newspaper all that closely, not listening to commercial radio and sticking to a handful of non- or barely commercial websites and blogs keeps the "shop, shop, shop" messages down to almost zero. Have to say I'm much happier because of it.

Kerri in AK