How to Be Content in a Materialistic World
Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15
“It began as a simple, or simply terrifying, pledge taken by a small group of friends feeling overwhelmed by all the things in their lives,” writes Elizabeth Weise. She explains, “Over a potluck dinner two years ago, they made a pact: Buy nothing new except food, medicine and toiletries for six months.” When a major newspaper did a feature on the unique experiment, the idea exploded. In a matter of a few weeks more than 700 people from countries as diverse as Japan, the Philippines, and Brazil have put their names on an Internet list to do the same thing.
“The original group named itself the Compact after the Mayflower Compact, a civil agreement that bound the Pilgrims to a life of higher purpose when they landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620.” The group that got together over a potluck dinner and decided that enough is enough and committed to the experiment weren’t necessarily trying to make a statement about consumerism, or how to save the world, or do something about global warming. But they acknowledged that they were fed up with the pressure to have the latest and the most expensive, measuring the success in their lives by the junk piled in their garage and the newest electronic stuff or fashion.
They wanted to simplify their lives. A French teacher, Rob Piccioto, one of the original compact signers, said, “It saved us time because there was less time spent shopping. We still buy groceries and go to the drugstore, but we don’t go to Target on a Saturday–which was a ritual before, just to see what the sales were.”
Vast numbers of people, the world over, registered disagreement with the blatant commercialism that confronts us today every time you pick up a newspaper, turn on your television set, or pick up a magazine.
Simplifying their lives meant different things to those who took the pledge, but they were all striving to accomplish the same thing. For some it meant buying the clothing they needed at a second hand or thrift store, having shoes repaired instead of trashing them out in favor of a new pair, planting a garden, or using washable hand towels instead of buying paper towels. It was an amazing life-changing endeavor that was a choice, not a situation forced upon them by a lack of resources.
Some backslid and caught themselves buying new sunglasses or something they couldn’t find second-hand, but most have adapted to a lifestyle of general simplicity, one that they feel is more genuine and authentic, to say nothing of its being more practical.
For Christians, a lifestyle of simplicity has always been part of authentic faith. Jesus said, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). He spoke eloquently about how the God who sees the sparrow fall from the sky will meet your needs. He set the example, living out a lifestyle of simplicity. He never owned property. His only possession was a seamless garment that Romans soldiers cast lots for at His death, but even in death He borrowed another man’s grave,
That philosophy and lifestyle was part and parcel of the mindset of the early church, that lived out their belief that more is not better. Many, in fact, gave away their possessions, vowing a life of poverty to serve God. In the U.S., Quakers and Shakers adopted the same kind of simple lifestyle, sharing their resources, helping each other, living as close to the earth as possible.
The path less traveled includes learning to say no to commercialism, avoiding the mall, making do with what you have, and sharing with others. Simplify, simplify, and simplify some more is the path to contentment in a materialistic world.
Scripture reading: Proverbs 13:7-17, The Message
 Elizabeth Weise, “USATODAY, March 23, 2006, March 26, 2006, D-1.