Buying Happiness?

Marketing is an important part of modern companies.  I am aware of one company that completely abandoned manufacturing and became simply a marketing company.  People in other parts of the world now manufacture the items they used to produce.  This company buys the merchandise and focuses on marketing—telling people how much they need to buy these products.   They hire some very smart people so that they will be very effective in marketing.

A quote from an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer in December of 2008 came through my inbox this week.  It said:

“A consumer economy only works if consumption of goods provides only temporary pleasure. That is, if happiness is infinitely deferred, so that buyers continue to buy more and more goods and services. By definition, the consumer can never be satisfied, at rest or happy. Which means she will always feel lacking. The pursuit of this sort of happiness creates a vicious circle of growing anxiety and dissatisfaction.”–Tirdad Derakhshani

 Someone I know recently bought a ‘slightly-used’ automobile.  After the sale was completed the family went out for an extravagant ‘let’s celebrate’ dinner.  A week later the newness of the purchase had worn off.  Some of the features were not what they wanted, there were some dings in the bumper.  The rush of the new purchase had worn off.

I do not want to demonize marketers.  However, I do want to remember that I live and breathe an environment that is constantly telling me that in order to be happy, fulfilled, accepted or hip, I need something other than what I have—something I can purchase.  That is contrary to the identity the Bible invites you and me to have about our lives.  Another quote in it has also struck me: “In the 21st century, pleasure is equated to consumption, and consumption has all but replaced the moral imperative(s) issued by teacher from Abraham to 18th-century philosopher Immanuel Kant and  20th century liberators Gandhi and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.”  I would add, “more importantly Jesus.”

In Psalm 34 David models a different kind of orientation.  In spite of the things David had at his disposal, David understood that completeness is only found in connecting with God.  That theme is reiterated throughout the psalms and Matthew 6:33 Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you.”  Maybe we do live in a world where we are told over and over again that we can consume our way to happiness, but deep abiding completeness of our souls can only be found in relating to God!

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