This was in an email I received from my pastor this past week! I thought it was so good I had to share it with you all. It is certainly a challenge to us as believers... I invite you to accept the challenge of asking God to grow us in this way...
"If I firmly believed, as millions do, that the knowledge and practice of religion in this life influences destiny in another, religion would mean everything to me. I would cast away all earthly enjoyment as dross, earthly cares as follies, and earthly thoughts and feelings as vanity. Religion would be my waking thought, and my last image before sleep sank me into unconsciousness.
I would labor in its cause alone. I would esteem one soul gained for heaven worth a lifetime of suffering. Earthly consequences would never stay my hand or seal my lips. Earth -- it's joys and its grief's -- would occupy no moment of my thoughts. I would strive to look upon eternity alone, and on the immortal souls around me, soon to be everlastingly happy or everlastingly miserable.
All these things I would gladly do if I believed... but I do not, and judging by appearances, neither do most Christians." An Anonymous Atheist
Tori DeAngelis, New York Times, Vol. 35, No. 6, Print Version, Page 52, 2004. It has to do with the negative effects of materialism and cultural consumerism on the soul.
“Materialistic values may stem from early insecurities and are linked to lower life satisfaction, psychologists find... Compared with Americans in 1957, today we own twice as many cars per person, eat out twice as often and enjoy endless other commodities that weren't around then--big-screen TVs, microwave ovens, SUVs and handheld wireless devices, to name a few. But are we any happier? Certainly, happiness is difficult to pin down, let alone measure. But a recent literature review suggests we're no more contented than we were then -- in fact, maybe less so.
"Compared with their grandparents, today's young adults have grown up with much more affluence, slightly less happiness and much greater risk of depression and assorted social pathology," notes Hope College psychologist David G. Myers, PhD, author of the article, which appeared in the American Psychologist (Vol. 55, No. 1). "Our becoming much better off over the last four decades has not been accompanied by one iota of increased subjective well-being.".... consumerism is an example of an area where psychology needs to stretch from its focus on the individual and examine the wider impact of the phenomenon, Kanner believes. "Corporate-driven consumerism is having massive psychological effects, not just on people, but on our planet as well," he says. "Too often, psychology over-individualizes social problems. In so doing, we end up blaming the victim, in this instance by locating materialism primarily in the person while ignoring the huge corporate culture that's invading so much of our lives."
There aren't many things that get me fired up but the ones that do, do it well. Materialism is one of them. As a fellow American, I too am constantly challenged with what I know is true and how our culture has chosen to live and use our resources. Each time I leave the country, I return with even more hatred of materialism and the lifestyle we as Christians are tempted to live. In Deuteronomy we are given 10 commandments-10 ways to live healthy, God glorifying, humanly blessed lives. Not rules! God has written these laws on our hearts, believer or not, that's where being a "good person" and our consciences come from. Have no other gods before me is one that speaks to this idea of materialism. Do we really need a phone upgrade? Do we really need a new laptop (I say that because I just purchased one...)? Do we really need more clothes, or new shoes, or a better this, or another of that? The answer is no. There are things that American culture (and other cultures) tell us we need in order to live properly but in all reality, we need clothes to keep us warm (if we live in a cold place), we need food, we need shelter, we need water, we need love and relationships, and we need God. If "things" have taken the place of the things we actually need and have become a priority over God's presence in our lives and our full worship of Him, I challenge you to identify your idols and do something about them.
Traveling to a developing country is a really helpful way to do this. It is not the cheapest way but if you're really looking to give and to change your way of thinking and living, consider how God might use you and how He might change you through that experience. As my pastor put it recently, He is more concerned with your heart condition than He is about what you do in life, how you serve, who you marry, what job you have, etc. So if He lays it on your heart to give some of your time somewhere less developed than here, you will automatically touch the lives of each person you come in contact with in some way, and it will change your heart too. That perhaps is the overlying purpose. He calls us to things, for Him, for our hearts, and the hearts of all people. All should be and will be impacted.