The environment was perfect—great joy, scrumptious food, unpolluted atmosphere, scenic beauty, charming flowers, musical waterfalls, perfect peace. There was no fear, no anger; yes, it was the Garden of Eden created by God and here He placed the first human couple, Adam and Eve. But the peaceful place was stirred by an advertisement—like modern-day ‘breaking news’—brought by the serpent. The advertisement screamed: “You will be like God”. The target audience of this advertisement was one person—Eve; Adam probably was not around. Like all advertisements, this also promised added values. And it was free! Indeed, Satan was the first advertiser. He made the cunning serpent his medium for the message that was: “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen 3:5).
FAKE NEWS AND FALSE PROMISE
Satan cleverly said that Eve would be like god, provided she could see the mystery that is hidden (not forbidden) and access the knowledge that is unknown. The key lay in the simple act of plucking the forbidden fruit and consuming it. Satan also promised that Eve would not die but live eternally like god. Satan is an expert in creating fake news and offering false promises.
Life is dictated by advertisements today. Ads have taken the status of advisor, counsellor, psychologist, health and beauty consultant; exhorting people to use specific products to feel good or look great.
Mass media and social media survive and even thrive on advertisements. The content in mass media, including newspapers, television, radio and magazines, etc., is sponsored, funded and, hence, controlled by rich, powerful and vested interests.
A CONSUMERIST’S TALE
A boy was to celebrate his seventh birthday. The child began to throw tantrums even before his parents stepped out to buy a gift for him. At the toy shop, the boy was overwhelmed and did not know what to choose. Eventually, he chose several toys; parents tried to tell him that they could buy three or four toys at the most. Suddenly, the boy’s grandfather came to the shop. He indulgently said that he would add more toys to the boy’s kitty. After the purchase, the boy carried all his seven toys—holding one upon the other—in his small hands. But he was still crying. Upset parents enquired; the boy replied: “I have small hands. I can carry only seven toys. If I had bigger hands, I could have got more toys.” Young consumer of a postmodern generation! The boy was neither grateful for the toys nor content with what he received.
Consumerism places material things, and not God, at the centre of a life.
Consumption seems to be the only aspirational goal of most people today. Globalisation, technology, gadgets and disposable income of middle class have driven the economy of consumption. As human beings, we need to consume to live. However, today, people live to consume only. Paul warns: “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. (1 Cor 6:13)
PRINCIPLES OF CONSUMERISM
Artificial or virtual need
The first principle is to create the need in the mind of the target person. Satan targeted Eve saying that she was yet to live like god whereas Eve did not need to become god to be complete or successful; she was in Paradise already! Artificial need can only be created when a person is not grateful. When there is no gratefulness, there is murmur or lament as was the habit of Israelites (Num 14:2). Instead of being grateful for what we have, we crave for things we do not have. That is where Satan finds a foothold. Paul writes that Godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Tim 6:6).
One and only solution
Advertisers position their product in such a way that it seems to be the only answer to every question. Satan told Eve that he had a simple solution. Advertisers, too, make tall claims that their products have quick and effective results. Satan said he could unveil the mystery and provide key to knowledge that was keeping Eve away from realising godhood. Satan is stating the same lie to a consumerist society—that they cannot experience ultimate fulfilment in their lives without consuming this or that product.
Available and affordable now
Advertisers of any product emphasize that the solution is at hand and affordable. Just a simple step—painless, effortless but great leap to unchartered world. Satan said to Eve that by simply eating the forbidden fruit, she would enter a new spiritual realm of gods. It would be a great leap from earth to eternity.
IMPACT OF CONSUMERISM
Periphery to centre: Consumerism places material things, and not God, at the centre of life. Consumerism does not ascribe priority to the Kingdom of God as disciples are mandated by our Lord Jesus Christ (Matt 6:33).
Robot of consumption: Consumerism defines a person by what he consumes or purchases. In a market economy, a person’s worth is determined by what he spends or can spend. Here a person is just a combination or integration of atoms of various chemicals without an inner being or soul who is not designed for eternity. Thus a person created in the image of God is reduced to a robot run by multiple forces of the world.
Only an emptied self or selfless mindset can generate compassion and generosity for others.
Twisted purpose of life: Consumerism gives twisted meaning to life. The philosophy of consumerism is to live for the present. Their motto is: eat, drink, be merry and die (Isaiah 22:13; 1 Cor 15:32 and Luke 12:19). People like to indulge in worldly pleasures, ignoring God and His will. Instead of living a life as intended by God and for God—to be a blessing to others around us—they live for themselves as if they are a privileged class.
Price and pricelessness: In a consumerist world everything has a price and can be bought. All things, including sex toys; services, including pornography and even relationships, including casual sex relationships, can be purchased in the real and virtual market place. However, the most important aspects of life are priceless. They are faith, hope and love (1 Cor 13:13).
The disciples of Christ are called to live a simple lifestyle. Our model is Lord Jesus Christ. Lord emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant (Phil 2:7). Only an emptied self or selfless mindset can generate compassion and generosity for others. Christ was moved with compassion when he saw the crowds, like sheep without
a shepherd (Matt 9:36). How many of us are inspired to be compassionate and generous after visiting a crowded mall?
The Bible warns us about replacing love for God with love for selfish pleasure. Bible says, “He who loves pleasure will become a poor man; He who loves wine and oil will not become rich” (Prov 21:17).
Giving is a Christian virtue. God wishes us to be generous as Macedonian Christians who volunteered to give even in extreme poverty and affliction (2 Cor 8:1-5).
Consumerism is based on greediness and covetousness, which is lack of faith. Abraham is a good model of life of faith. He refused to take anything belonging to King of Sodom. “I have lifted my hand to the Lord, God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth, that I would not take a thread or a sandal strap or anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’” (Gen 14:22, 23). How many young people today can say that they will not take anything, including dowry, that does not morally or legally belong to them.
Consumerism is buying things you do not need, with the money you do not have, for the sake of gaining self-esteem and popularity among peers. Consumers are called by the world to live for themselves while disciples are called by God to live in the world as light, witnesses to our loving God, glorious gospel and the Eternal Kingdom of God. It is time to ask yourself if you are a consumer, or a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.