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Consumerism: I Want It MY Way
Scripture: Proverbs 2:1-8; 12:15; 13:1; 16:9,11; 19...
Track 2 of 13 in the American Idols series
Running time: 34 minutes, 33 seconds.

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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.


Apparently there's quite an argument concerning how many "ads" the typical American sees every day. The most cynical say 2,400 to 10,000. The most conservative suggest more like 250. According to the Advertising Media InterCenter Website: "The Guru tends to go along with one of the best accepted estimates, that there are about 245 ad exposures daily, 108 from TV, 34 radio and 112 print.

Even at those conservative figures, we each are exposed to over 1,700 per week or 89,000 per year or 890,000 per decade. That's a lot of temptation to spend. One friend refused to have catalogs in his home (I wonder what he does now that they come relentlessly and unsolicited). He didn't want the family coveting things they couldn't have.

It may be my imagination, but has the "impulse aisle" (you know, the cash register area) been over-stocked lately? It seems every store has more and more goodies just waiting to be purchased while we are waiting (I wonder if there's a connection?).

On a recent trip I noted the cable TV station had five (count them, five) shopping networks available (I think Quincy has only three). And all of them, for a small fee, would ship your goods anywhere in the world. How convenient for those who want to shop on the road.

"Edmonton, Alberta, Canada's West Edmonton Mall includes over 800 retail stores, six amusement attractions and a 335-room hotel, the Fantasyland Hotel" (about.com). "The largest mall in the U.S., the Mall of America includes three levels of shopping and the fourth floor Entertainment District, dedicated to food and fun. Four hundred retail stores surround Knott's Camp Snoopy, which includes an indoor roller coaster" (ibid.com). I visited "the world's largest mall" a few years ago (The Philippines). It's now barely in the top ten. The world's largest mall (China) is 7.1 million square feet of shopping space.

Reports tell us children under 12 spend $28 billion a year. Teens an incredible $100 billion. From the time we are little we are taught to spend (consume). Spending is even commended in scripture . . . the Samaritan "spent" all she had (Luke 21:1) in worship. Jesus "spent" His life (John 3:16) for our redemption.

Sermon for Sunday, June 10, 2007
Series: American Idols
Proverbs 2:1-8

I don't think there is anything left to say, sit down now and move on.

"You can have it your way." That is the claim. Could we see that slide? You have the right to have what you want exactly when you want it. Because on the menu of life, you are today's special and tomorrow's, and the day after that; and well, you get the drift. Yes; that's right, we may be the King; but you my friend are the almighty ruler.

Consumerism captured in a poster on a store front. But you heard just a wee bit of the song in the background that was penned by Paul Anka back in 1968, it was first recorded in 1969; made famous by Frank Sinatra; "I'll Do It My Way" It became his signature song. It rose as high as number 27 on the All-Star charts in the United States. What amazes me is it became the most popular song used in British funerals for a number of years.

It was that which was used as background music in 2006 at the Boston Celtics fair well extravaganza for former coach Red Owerback after his death. It is the most popular song sung in the karaoke bars in the Philippines. At least that's what they said; I've not checked that one out. But has been blamed actually for a number of violent crimes, including murder; in order to get people to quit singing. That, I could probably help them with.

I want it my way; I'll do it my way. The last part of that song says, "For what is man? What has he got? If not himself then he has not. To say the things he truly feels and not the words of one who kneels, the records show I took the blows and did it my way." That's consumerism. I want it my way.

There's a marvelous PBS special that you could go on-line and find, it's called, "The Merchants of Cool" There is a remarkable series of videos that accompany that one of which is a 13 year old saying, "I have to look good, I don't dare go to my friends' houses if I don't look good." Her closing remark is, "It would just ruin my day if I didn't look good." And of course, somebody has to define what good is.

In that particular special, there is a remarkable set of comments about MTV. You ought to watch it if you are a parent, just to see what is being said. They are quoted as saying, and this is not the only place that I say them quoted, but this is one of the places where this became blatantly clear, "You give them what you want them to have." Give them what you want them to have. You control the marketing scheme. It's a remarkable thing that they do to us, it is just absolutely remarkable. Here is the cool hunting ad from the internet site, "In a society obsessed with the shiny and the new, the cool hunter has become the reference point of choice for the latest in what's hot. Everyone knows everyone wants to know what's hot, because hot products and ideas sell. Sign up for our free weekly newsletter so you're always in the know, because being in the know makes you so much more interesting." Actually, what's "hot" item is worth absolutely millions of dollars.

There's a web site I could not get on because I ‘m unwilling to pay the fee to get on it. That marketers do pay literally millions of dollars to see pictures of what the hunters find out on the streets as what's coming next.

TIME magazine makes this comment, "Cool may be our country's most precious natural resource. An invisible, impalpable substance that can make a particular brand of an otherwise interchangeable product, a sneaker, a pair of jeans, an action movie; fantastically valuable. And "cool" can be used to predict the future.

The theory goes as follows: When "cool" people; a group known to marketers as "alpha consumers", start talking or eating or dressing or shopping a certain way; non-cool people will follow them. Watch the "cool" kids, the alpha consumers today; and you can see what everybody else will be doing a year from now.

This is not an anti-marketing sermon by the way, but it is a sermon to try to help you be aware of what's going on in our world.

Just down the street from here some of you will be pleased to know, others will not even care; on the other side of Mc Donald's on Broadway, there will soon be a Starbuck's.

Well, obviously; this group doesn't even care.

87,000 combinations. This is their advertising. When you consider our milk options, number of shots, various syrups, and the choice of whip or no-whip; we have up to 87,000 different drink combinations; all customized to your own individual needs.

Do you hear it? It's consumer mentality. I want it my way. I was gonna tell you about my daughter's ordering habits but you just saw them on the video clip when she tried to order that salad and that pie. That is my daughter; I have been through that in numerous restaurants. You finally just shrug your shoulders and say, "ok, here we go again; and we'll see what she actually gets when they deliver it. ‘

The estimates varies, anywhere from 3,000 ads per day down to as little as 60-70; but the most common number that I saw anywhere in what I found was that the average American sees 250 ads per day trying to tell us that these are things we need to buy.

When you read your bulletin insert this week, you'll find out how many that comes out to in the average year and why that has such incredible power over us as consumers, as buyers.

There's an art display in Seattle, this would only happen in Seattle by the way; there is an art display of plastic bottles. It's just a huge pile of plastic bottles. Mountain Dew, Pepsi, water. It represents the 5,000,000 plastic bottles that we go through every … you want to fill in the time frame? In the United States, we go through 5,000,000 plastic bottles every 5 minutes. Not only is that a lot of consumption, that's a lot of non-biodegradable stuff going back into the ground. We go through a half million cell phones a year, excuse me; a day. A half million cell phones are purchased everyday in the United States.

Mark Medley, in an ethics web-site at Baylor University; says, "consumerism encourages the lest attractive human traits.' Avarice, which is another word for greed, aggression and self-centeredness. Another author on that same web site says, "As consumers, as consumerism especially at century's end; becomes an increasingly individualistic and private affair; we risk losing key virtues that stabilize and promote social life. Things like care for others, compromise, friendship, responsibility to the past; and felt obligation for the future.

We live in a consumer culture, it is a shift from a few years back when we we're a producer culture. We are now buyers and hoarders, and users. That's how we live. That is how our economy runs. That' how our life runs. That's how our children are raised. And what we end up with is a recognition that there are some consequences to that. I'll only list just a short list, one of which is obvious, we buy things we don't need and then we store them in places like the buildings behind us. I'm assuming that if you really needed what's in that building you'd have it where you could get access to it without having to come over there once every six months and look for it.

We find our meaning in the things that we purchase. That's one of the most troubling things about this whole issue of being a consumer culture is that we find our value in what we possess, what we own; or what we purchase.

There's a professor at Hendrick's College in Arkansas, who is a specialist in this whole issue of consumerism and spirituality. He's written a book called, "Living from the Center-Spirituality in an Age of Consumerism". He has these temptations of consumerism. 10 of them, I'll not probably read them all; he say's, "One of the temptations is to believe that appearance of fluence and marketable achievement are and ought to be the central organizing principle of life. To believe that to be compulsively busy, event to the point of exhaustion; is a sign of healthy and productive living. Believing that having a successful career is more important than being a good parent, a good spouse, a good neighbor, a kind and loving person; or taking walk in the woods. Believing that good work is reducible to making money and unpaid work, particularly in the home; is not really working. Believing that the appropriate goal in life is to enjoy prosperity in the suburbs with a perfectly manicured lawn. Believing that depression can should be cured by shopping. Believing that the most important thing in life is to have my needs met. To believe that we are all on our own, because there is no grace, no ultimate mercy within the depths of things; our task is to look out for number one."

One of the consequences is that we're liable, we are really liable too the slick ads of the marketers. We don't know how to interrupt what we see or what we hear. We just look at the ad and are forced to believe that this is the best of something.

In a particular article I ran across, one commentator says, "Consumerism is much more than the mere creation and consumption of goods and services." Consumerism is kindled according to sociologist John Boudrolard; "Only when people come to mythically believe that they have certain needs that can only be satisfied through consumption. From that point, they need to need and they desire to desire instead of consuming goods themselves, they consume the meanings of goods as those have been constructed through advertising in marketing and a sense, they become what they buy. "

Or, according to a Christian's women's magazine, an article by Tanya Stoneman, "People who wear the latest tennis shoes are hipper and happier. A person doesn't look right without wearing name brand clothing. Beauty products make people beautiful. Are your children digesting messages like these as a part of their daily diets? Advitisors spend six billion dollars a year on marketing products and we are the product. In the pages of trade journals, targeted at industry insiders; popular network MTV offers those who buy their airtime a chance to influence viewers who it boasts will do whatever the network tells them to do. Magazines geared toward young girls frequently positions articles about the virtues of being thin next to advertisements for weight loss products. Not a coincidence. Because, children are exposed to an average of 20,000 television commercials per year. By the way that is really low in its estimate.

It is critically important for parents to teach them to discern the real messages behind the Madison Avenue's air brushed images. Once young people realize that advertisers can turn a profit by making them feel insecure and unsatisfied with reality, they can counter destructive media messages with hard hitting truth. The other consequence that I would mention to you is that we fail to teach our children to be discerning.

And then it comes to church. And I'm only going to park here for a moment. But did you ever walk out of church thinking that wasn't what you came for? Did you ever walk out thinking, I didn't enjoy that? That wasn't done the way that I would do it, which is another way of saying, "I wanted it my way."

Can I just pause here for a second? Well, I know I can cause I'm going to. I want to suggest four categories of things that we need to look for as we look through these various American Idols as we think about the book of Proverbs. If you have your Bibles, I want to just point out quickly some texts in Proverbs that lay a foundation for the way for us to be discerning people. The first one is this: Reflection. Taking the time to be a reflective person. Thinking about things. Slowing down, asking questions, pondering things. Just stopping long enough to ask once in a while. Here's the text: Proverbs 6:6-8; now I'm not promoting the message of the text so much as what the text is trying to say about slowing down. Listen to Proverbs 6:6: "Go to the ant you sluggard, consider its ways and be wise." Do you hear what he's saying? Take a look, slow down: think about it. Become a reflective person. Just step back and look and ask, "What in the world is that commercial saying?" What does that TV ad want me to do? And why? What is this slick piece of paper trying to sell me really?

A second is: Instruction. If the first is reflection, simply learning to ask questions, the second one is instruction. In Proverbs 4, you could find this message in Proverbs all over the place but in chapter 4, in verses 1 and following: "Listen sons the father's instructions. Pay attention and gain understanding. I give you sound learning, do not forsake my teaching. When I was a boy, in my father's house still tender and an only child of my mother, he taught me and said, "Lay hold of my words with all you heart, keep my commands and you will live." Seek what people around you might teach you. Ask yourself who are the Godly people who could give you some instruction.

In most cases you could even ask the question, who of my parents; what of what my parents' have taught me that would be valuable at this particular point?

Relevant Magazine has an article in the January issue that says one of the primary things is that they haven't been taught to think, talking about teenagers. As we look at the interviews with teenagers and with young adults their perspective theologically, and even their perspective about the world; very few have what's called a biblical world view or a perspective about the world that's informed by the principles of scripture. We haven't taught people and so there's nothing for them to know.

The challenge of instruction to simply let those around you become your teacher. Learn something. Well, how many times have you said to your children, "You don't have to jump off the building to find out that you're going to break a leg." You could listen to somebody and that might help.

A third category in the book of Proverbs is: Correction. It's not just instruction, its correction. Its one thing to have somebody teach you, it's another thing for you to be willing to listen to someone actually correct you.

Proverbs 12:1: "Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid." I love that kind of bold language, he who hates correction is stupid.

There are people who can teach us something, scripture can teach us, church can teach us. The challenge is to be humble enough to learn. To have a teachable spirit. To be willing to step back and listen to correction.

And then finally, Revelation. One of the things that Proverbs points out repeatedly but for example; Proverbs 29:18; an often misquoted passage of scripture. Proverbs 29:18: Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint, BUT blessed is he who keeps the law." There is a word from God. God has spoken on most topics. And the challenge is for us to look at scripture and to let God have an opportunity to speak. Where there is no word from God, where there is no revelation, when we don't listen to the law we find ourselves making really foolish mistakes that we don't need to make.

For the book of Proverbs provides those 4 things: Reflection, Instruction, Correction, and Revelation. We'll repeat those and come back to those on a regular basis, because that's in essence how we're going to as Christians, as disciples, as followers of Christ; that's how were going to deal with American Idols, when we're confronted with them.

So come back to this issue of consumerism. One of the things that we need to do is spend some time in reflection. And one of the things we might do in reflection, is ask some questions; like, "what am I being sold here?"

Back to that women's magazine. A car advertisement promotes the notion that expensive things bring comfort and protect people. Here's the example: A luxury automobile glides across the pavement in the rain, it's passengers are sheltered comfortable inside by the car's durability and strength. A soothing voice says simply, "A car that will save your soul."

Well, among other things: you're being sold a bill of goods. There isn't a car that will save your soul. But the challenge is to step back and reflect on that advertisement. What is it that they're selling? Are they selling you an automobile or are they selling you peace and comfort? Because there's a huge difference. The best automobile in the world will not give you peace and comfort. It might provide you better safety than another automobile, but will not give you those ultimate values. Don't be fooled. Or another one she says by playing on people's restless nature, following credit card commercial assures viewers that money can make a boring life more satisfying. Here's the ad: A young newlywed has forgotten his first anniversary, at the last minute he calls the travel agent and books tickets for an exotic Asian bird watching safari, naturally he pays the bill with plastic. The announcer assures viewers that the credit card is wherever you want to be. Or if you like MasterCard better, the price of this is priceless.

What are they selling? That's really the question that I would ask you to ask. What is it that these people are trying sell you, do you need this? Do you need it now? Why do you need it? Just take time to ponder long enough to at least ask.

I know, you can't afford to pass it up. It's such a good deal. I'm telling you what, I had to finally tell my children I couldn't afford for them to save me anymore money. You know that routine.

What about instruction? I want to come back and suggest to you that in this arena of consumption, that living in and around you are some people who have learned how to be good stewards of what God has given them. You need to learn from them. Not everybody is into consuming. There are people who are really quite frugal. You might learn something fro them and probably they're part of an older generation. But listen to them, because they may have something to ask.

Here's what Professor McDaniel says about those temptations. He says on the other side of the temptation to appearance and affluence and marketable achievement, he say's you ought to know this: That wisdom, compassion, and inter-freedom are much more important than appearance, affluence and marketable achievement."

On the other side of being compulsively busy, he says, "healthy living requires not only creativity and hard work, but also rest and relaxation so that our work can be productive rather than compulsive."

On the other side of prosperity, he says, "the goal in life is to have a prosperous heart not a prosperous home."

On the other side of curing by shopping, he says, "compulsive shopping is a symptom of disease not a cure for depression."

What I'm suggesting to you is there people out there who have something to teach us if we would stop long enough to listen. When it comes to correction, I'm just here to tell you that consumption produces selfishness, it produces greed; and what we need to wrestle with is our own personal responsibility.

Again, from that Baylor site on ethics; Laura Singleton says, "This prompts us to recognize this parallel, though advertisers should be of course held accountable for deceit and pressure tactics, it remains true that the most persuasive commercial be it ever so subtle cannot ultimately make us do something we don't want to do."

We need to learn self control. And then revelation. Simple speaking, to the fact that God has already spoken to our wanting hearts, can I offer you 3 revelations from God that I think speak clearly to consumer culture. The first one comes form Philippians 4:10-13: Learn to be content. More stuff will not make life better. Newer is not necessarily improved. Paul says, "I have learned in whatever state I am in," and he talking about both having and not having; he says, "I have learned". It's not something that comes easily, "I have learned to be content".

One of the things that a disciple does is tries to learn is how to be content. To accept life for what it is, to not always to be looking on the other side of the preverbal fence for the greener pasture or the better thing.

That isn't to suggest you never replace something. It is to suggest that you ought to know why you're replacing it.

Become a good steward. Genesis 1 and then dozens of other scriptures remind us that when God placed us on earth, he placed us here as stewards of it all. Not just stewards of our finances, not just stewards of our time, but stewards of our universe. 5,000,000 bottles in 5 minutes? That's a lot of plastic going in the ground. And its really easy to say, "let the future generation deal with that, they'll figure it out." That's unfair. We need to take responsibility for our stewardship of what we have. Our time, our energy, our stuff, our resources, our world. Be generous.

Genesis 12 reminds us that Abraham was going to be blessed, but he was going to be blessed for simple reasons: so that he could be a blessing to others.

Generosity is one of the chief antidotes to becoming a consumer. Teaching your children to become generous people will go a long ways toward eliminating one of the key issues that every child faces and that's selfishness.

Rob Bell, who preaches at Mars Hill in the Detroit area in a quote from Relevant magazine says, "The unbelievable amassing of wealth and consumer goods that we have at our fingertips in American culture. That sentence makes no sense outside of this, here's the question: What's the greatest challenge facing disciples today? Now hear that sentence again, the greatest challenge: "The unbelievable amassing of wealth and consumer goods that we have at our fingertips in American culture, our greatest challenge will be to learn how to move this into blessings for others or we will continue to be more selfish and indifferent to the cries of the world. These insane amounts of goods that are at our service are not doing good things to our souls." "Generosity" he says.

Well, here's the text for the day, I've supposed you've wondered if we would ever get there. Proverbs 2; and no I will not be long. Proverbs 2:1 "My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom, and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver, and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds victory and store for the upright, he is a shield for those whose walk is blameless, he guards the course of the just and he protects the way of his faithful ones."

What I want to encourage you is to look at the verbs in verses 1-5. "My son if you accept, store up, turn your ear, apply your heart, call out, cry aloud, if you look for and search for."

Do you hear what's coming from us? A deep longing to know what it is that God wants. If you do those things, then according to verse number 5, then these things will be true. You will understand and you will find the knowledge of God and he will put into your life those things that you really need.

The meaning that we seek in stuff, you find only in God. The meaning that we seek in the amassing of stuff, the meaning, that we seek in consuming in our world; you can only genuinely find that which you seek in God himself.

I come back one more time to this women's magazine article, the closing line, the closing paragraph; "the need for love and acceptance is arguably the strongest human motivator…"which by the way is often what the marketer is trying to tell us we're looking for and we're going to find. She say's. "the need for love and acceptance is arguably the strongest human motivator and God can satisfy it like nothing else. He loves without limits, and accepts without restraint. "

What did we try to tell you this morning? Life is not about you. It's not about getting things your way. Life is about God and giving him what is rightfully his.

Max Lucado actually has a little book of devotions that he calls, "It's Not About Us" and the very first thing he tries to drive us toward is the presence of God and or desire to worship. To give our hearts to him fully in a spirit of worship. To come back again and again to the presence of God as the antidote to the American Idol. Particularly this idol of getting things your own way.

Worship reminds you this is not about us. It's about him.

So; I'm going to ask you to stand with me and sing and we're going to let this song reflect that we're going to seek to come back to a heart that belongs to God in worship today.

[Transcribed by VW5]