Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Need vs. Want

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Matthew 6:33

Billy Graham, commenting on this verse, said,

"The 'things' He spoke of were the basic needs of life: food, drink, clothes, shelter."

Basic needs…That really struck me, especially since I read this right after seeing this Nissan Ad.

We can blame advertisers and society for blurring the line between needs and wants. But I think we all know who is really at fault: us (especially parents). We are to blame for our own out of control spending on things that aren't needs, but are wants. We don't look at food, drink, clothing and shelter as needs anymore. Instead, we see them as a given; to be expected and nothing special. In so doing, we completely gloss over being thankful for them, and transfer the application of the word "need" to things that are actually wants. Since many don't recognize a need when it's been met, they can't acknowledge that it's been met and so never stop in their effort to fulfill that need. They just keep going and going in their accumulation, not knowing when to stop.

Easy credit and the proliferation of shopping outlets have brought a sense of entitlement. Many of us share the sentiment of Peanut's character Sally Brown, who said, as her brother Charlie Brown read her lavish Christmas list to Santa, "all I want is what I have coming to me. All I want is my fair share." This sense of entitlement is something my parents and grandparents didn't have.

We in America have gotten to the point where five pairs of similar black shoes (my hand is raised, I'm totally guilty) aren't enough, and we find ourselves drawn to clearance sales where maybe we can hook one more pair, at a bargain price to boot! Our cars are old and "needing" to be replaced at three years of age, along with our dishwashers, comforters, winter coats, porch furniture, curtains, rugs, etc. Our winters in Wisconsin are long, but does each person really need 10 wool sweaters (that will never wear out unless infested with moths?) We’ve come to expect not one warm sweater to meet our need, but ten warm sweaters to meet our want, and then call having the ten sweaters a need! We call a five year old couch outdated and a new, up-to-date couch a "need."

And now all this unwieldy spending has come back to bite us. To many, it's as if the world is ending (when in actuality, it's only the world as they've know it that is ending). I listened to an interview with Rick Warren recently, and when the reporter commented on how Americans are struggling financially, Warren replied, "many people in other countries would love to have the problems we have." Touche!

We come to see the turning off of the money tap as "trial." We see our ability to not get credit as "hardship." We lament the fact that we can no longer mindlessly "kill time" at Wal-Mart. We feel bad that we could only spend $400 on Christmas presents for the kids this year instead of the usual $1,500. And our ski trip to Vail or our weekend at the Water Park may have to wait, or not happen at all. My point is not to minimize the loss of a job or having to move away from family and friends to find work, or having to go to a food pantry for help with food. I'm also not saying it's bad to take a family vacation or to ever buy a new couch! I'm talking about the many people who take no notice of and find no contentment in their needs alone being met and who are now crying foul because they'll have to curb or stop spending altogether on wants (and this includes people at all income levels, not just the wealthy.)

Paul said, in Philippians 4:11-12, "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want."

If there is ever a time to evangelize on the basis of this message, it is now. How many people are hungry for contentment, but can no longer chase it with the almighty dollar? Let's reach them with the message of True contentment: To seek first the kingdom of God through His son, Jesus Christ.

"There is great gain in godliness with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world; but if we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content." 1 Timothy 6:6-8

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