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Sermon illustrations

Consumerism

American Prosperity and Consumption

In his thought-provoking book, Twelve Lies That Hold America Captive, Jonathan Walton uncovers some of the hard truths about American culture. In this excerpt, he describes the consumption associated with the American way of life.

At the turn of World War II, with much of the world in disarray, the United States accounted for 50 percent of the world economic output, cementing its monetary dominance. Decades later, the United States still holds 25 percent of global output and the largest economy. Closer to home, the US median household income per year is about $60,000, while it’s $27,000 in the United Kingdom, and $8,000 in Brazil. Scientific American puts it most clearly:

With less than 5 percent of world population, the U.S. uses one-third of the world’s paper, a quarter of the world’s oil, 23 percent of the coal, 27 percent of the aluminum, and 19 percent of the copper…

Our per capita use of energy, metals, minerals, forest products, fish, grains, meat, and even fresh water dwarfs that of people living in the developing world. These numbers are striking because if life, liberty, and comfort are America’s goals, then we have little competition. If prosperity is our ability to buy and dispose of 140 million cell phones and 300 million pairs of shoes annually, and eat $14.3 billion dollars’ worth of chocolate per year, then we are winning the race.

Taken from Twelve Lies That Hold America Captive: And the Truth That Sets Us Free by Jonathan Walton Copyright (c) 2019 by Jonathan Walton. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

10 Principles to Live By

In his classic book, Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster shares 10 principles that can help you cultivate an attitude of simplicity over consumerism:

  1. Buy things for their usefulness rather than their status.
  2. Reject anything that is producing an addiction in you.
  3. Develop a habit of giving things away.  De-accumulate.
  4. Refuse to be propagandized by the custodians of modern gadgetry.
  5. Learn to enjoy things without owning them.  Enjoy public parks and libraries.
  6. Develop a deeper appreciation for creation.
  7. Look with a healthy skepticism at all “buy now, pay later” schemes.
  8. Obey Jesus’ instructions about plain, honest speech.
  9. Reject anything that breeds the oppression of others.
  10. Shun anything that distracts you from seeking first the kingdom of God.

Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth, 3rd ed. (New York: HarperCollins, 1998, pp.90-95).

Creating Christian Consumers

I’ve served on staff at a few different churches throughout Silicon Valley for the last decade and a half, including a medium-sized church, a young church plant, and a multisite megachurch. At each, we felt the strong temptation of the digital age—the temptation to pursue relevance at any cost.

We found ourselves spending inordinate amounts of time and energy trying to create spaces that looked, sounded, and felt like whatever we thought was most relatable to popular culture at large. Ultimately, though, we discovered that any sort of sustained emphasis on relevance invariably led to satisfied Christian consumers who’d found a product they enjoyed, but rarely led to anything deeper.

The most transformative experiences people were having in our communities, we slowly realized, had nothing to do with the lights, sound, and spectacle. Transformation was happening in much more tactile ways—through personal relationships and the profound simplicity of studying Scripture, praying, and sharing meals together.

Taken from Analog Church by Jay Y. Kim Copyright (c) 2020 by Jay Y. Kim. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

Daily Thanks and the Tragedy of a Consumer Culture

Melissa Florer-Bixler, a Mennonite pastor, told me, “One of my favorite stories from the Talmud comes from a wondering by the rabbis—why did the manna come once a day instead of once a year? They tell a parable about a king and his son. When the king provided his son sustenance once a year, the son returned only once a year to thank his father.

But when the son was given a small, daily provision each day, the child returned daily to thank his father. Daily thanksgiving, daily provision, daily a chance to receive love from a God who provides.” But long ago that type of manna stopped falling from the sky, and it stopped being seen as miraculous by those who wanted more than a day’s worth of food, by those who wanted to be able to hoard it without feeling guilty about it.

Florer-Bixler says, “for one unique moment in God’s history among people food was pure gift, a pure act of love. And as it was then, and as it shall be while people are on the earth, this arrangement became a place of discontent and faithlessness.”

The Israelites grumbled, they wanted variety, they were tired of the grace given every day, they wanted more control over their own destiny. And this is the kind of culture I was born into, these were the values I absorbed with every meal, every trip to the grocery store, every time I rummaged around our well-stocked pantry.

Affluence, even when it meant having more than others, became a virtue. It became a way of life, something to pursue: it became godly.

Taken from The Myth of the American Dream by D.L. Mayfield Copyright (c) 2020 by D.L. Mayfield. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

American Prosperity and Consumption

In his thought-provoking book, Twelve Lies That Hold America Captive, Jonathan Walton uncovers some of the hard truths about American culture. In this excerpt, he describes the consumption associated with the American way of life.

At the turn of World War II, with much of the world in disarray, the United States accounted for 50 percent of the world economic output, cementing its monetary dominance.Decades later, the United States still holds 25 percent of global output and the largest economy. Closer to home, the US median household income per year is about $60,000, while it’s $27,000 in the United Kingdom, and $8,000 in Brazil. Scientific American puts it most clearly:

With less than 5 percent of world population, the U.S. uses one-third of the world’s paper, a quarter of the world’s oil, 23 percent of the coal, 27 percent of the aluminum, and 19 percent of the copper. . . .

Our per capita use of energy, metals, minerals, forest products, fish, grains, meat, and even fresh water dwarfs that of people living in the developing world. These numbers are striking because if life, liberty, and comfort are America’s goals, then we have little competition. If prosperity is our ability to buy and dispose of 140 million cell phones and 300 million pairs of shoes annually, and eat $14.3 billion dollars’ worth of chocolate per year, then we are winning the race.

Taken from Twelve Lies That Hold America Captive: And the Truth That Sets Us Free by Jonathan Walton Copyright (c) 2019 by Jonathan Walton. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

So Many Things

The story is told of Socrates walking through the market in Athens, with its groaning abundance of options, and saying to himself, “Who would have thought that there could be so many things that I can do without?”

Taken from A Free People’s Suicide: Sustainable Freedom and the American Future by Os Guinness Copyright (c) 2013 by Os Guinness. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

Still Looking for inspiration?

Consider checking out our quotes page on Consumerism, Don’t forget, sometimes a great quote is an illustration in itself!

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