THE GREATEST VALUES IN AMERICA
Several years ago an issue of Money Magazine contained in article on “The Greatest Values in America.” I found it tremendously discouraging. The piece made note of the fact that materialism has become increasingly respectable. Possessions are now used, not just to impress others, but as a means of self-expression. “People now find in consumption a ‘theater of life,’ a place to find meaning,” according to City University of New York sociologist Sharon Zukin.
The article listed some of the best values in the land. Not surprisingly, “value” is identified with an object’s monetary worth. Value as defined by moral excellence does not receive so much as an honorable mention in the article. “The Greatest Values in America” did not have a word to say about compassion, generosity, or kindness. Instead it parades before us Le Chocolate Manon, Hermes scarves, and Zeiss 10x40B binoculars.
Dr. Zukin observed, “Politics, education, and religion don’t interest people as much anymore. But if I buy a certain kind of lettuce, I will tell you about it at a dinner party because it is easier to construct a social life around private acts of consumption then to try to change the world.” Indeed! But when private acts of consumption are not guided by a godly sense of moral excellence, the social life we construct will be erected on a terribly flimsy foundation.
The article is right when it says that possessions are a means of self-expression. But exactly what is it that Christian people need to express? Our possessions can express a deplorable degree of self-absorption and insensitivity toward the needy of the world. On the other hand, possessions and the way we use them can express a Christ-centered determination to be “rich in good deeds and to be generous and willing to share. In this way we will lay up treasure for ourselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that we may take hold of the life that is truly life” (1 Timothy 6:19).
Grace and Peace,