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Eye on the World: Consumerism

- Eye on the World

Shopping can be a big part of the holiday season, especially in countries where there’s a cultural emphasis on finding gifts for friends and family. In the United States, “Black Friday” sales—in which items such as electronics and toys are steeply discounted—took place earlier than ever, and in some cases actually began on Thanksgiving Day. Record numbers of shoppers participated, and weekend sales were up 13 percent over last year.

Most people agree that rampant consumerism can be damaging, distracting us from spending time with family and nudging us to spend money on things we don’t really need. One response to the Black Friday shopping frenzy is Giving Tuesday, on which people and companies will be encouraged to make charitable donations in the spirit of strengthening communities. Movements like Giving Tuesday are a welcome antidote to consumerism -- but for those interested in looking at things from a spiritual perspective, it’s possible to respond in an even more profound way.

When we take time for quiet prayer, we discover that it’s God -- not an acquisitive mindset -- that really sustains and refreshes us. Evan Mehlenbacher points out in “You aren’t what you buy” that where consumerism would have us look to material possessions as a measure of contentment or joy, we can instead recognize that God, Spirit, is providing us with everything we need.

Thanks living and praise giving” discusses how the act of praising God can become a theme for our lives, not limited to just one day a year. As we “gain the altitude of praise … as we truly love, motivated by no concern for oneself in helping to lift the burdens of others,” we’ll find that Thanksgiving blessings bubble over and bless all areas of our lives. Giving thanks enables us to acknowledge and rejoice in everything that God has done and is doing.

In “Putting a stop to retail therapy,” Jodie Swales shares how humble prayer enabled her to break a habit of buying expensive items in an effort to feel good. As she focused more on her relationship with God, she discovered a deep sense of satisfaction that dissolved any tendency toward too much shopping.  

You’ll also enjoy “User or consumer,” from the January 1980 issue of the Christian Science Journal, which illustrates without equivocation what spiritual supply is and what it can do in our lives. As we seek to honor God, first and foremost, we’ll find any emphasis on consumerism gently being replaced with a more satisfying spiritual basis from which to celebrate the holidays.

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