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A Theology of Shiny New Things

We’ve been bashing consumerism in our church lately. I mean, really bashing it. A couple weeks ago I told our church, during a Sunday preach, that you wouldn't go to hell in hand-basket…quickly…for buying a new iPhone every two years. Key word: quickly. And I don’t apologize, 'cause we've become a culture completely given to the acquiring of stuff and more stuff at the expense of others (often third world factory workers). And at the expense of ourselves. Consumerism IS the fastest growing religion in North America and we worship at the mall weekly. Our over-consumption is literally killing us.

But is it wrong to have or want shiny new things?

That’s the question.

What about buying a new truck or car? Or taking a hot vacation this spring to the Dominican? What about the desire to gift a nice piece of jewelry to your spouse, or get that new set of dishes for the dining room? What about getting a new phone with your new two-year contract?

To be honest, after the last week’s preach titled “Spend Less” (I’m serious), I felt like a recovery talk (or blog) might be in order. And this is that.

Here’s a quick theology on shiny new toys and things.

1) God is the giver of shiny new things.

Let’s start here, with God, who is behind every good and perfect thing (James 1:17).

And yes, He gives nice stuff to his kids. And lots of it. God’s blessing makes Abraham and his family so powerful they take on kings and their kingdoms single-handedly and win. Solomon was arguably the richest man in the history of the world (take that Bill Gates). How does he get so wealthy?

"And I will give you (Solomon) riches and wealth and honor, such as none of the kings who were before you has possessed nor those who will come after you.” ~ God (2 Chronicles 1:12)

Additionally, God gives humans the intellect and resources to build nice stuff that makes life better or easier or richer or fun. That includes computers and the internet; trucks and ATV’s; designer homes and leather sofas; espresso machines and apple pie. Please don’t give the devil credit for any of these awesome things! He's a schmuck who only ever plagiarizes (poorly) things that others (like God) have made.

"Here is what I have seen: It is good and fitting for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor in which he toils under the sun all the days of his life which God gives him; for it is his heritage. As for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, and given him power to eat of it, to receive his heritage and rejoice in his labor—this is the gift of God” ~ Solomon (Ecclesiastes 5:18-19)

2) Shiny new things can go bad

They will. They’ll rust, rot, fall apart, get lost, or become obsolete (this IS the age of obsolescence, geesh). Those new things will get old, break down, and likely see the garbage dump.

But here’s the deeper truth:

Good things, even shiny and new things, that become ultimate things? Bad news. It’s called idolatry. Even the most wonderful things, devices, possessions - God-given or God-inspired - can become idols in our lives, leading us into destruction and havoc.

Look here, you rich people: Weep and groan with anguish because of all the terrible troubles ahead of you. Your wealth is rotting away, and your fine clothes are moth-eaten rags. Your gold and silver are corroded. The very wealth you were counting on...You have spent your years on earth in luxury, satisfying your every desire. You have fattened yourselves for the day of slaughter. ~James 5:1-2, 5

It’s when you start "counting on" those shiny new things to save you, to fulfill you, to give you peace, joy, satisfaction in life, that you’ve crossed a dangerous line. Back away. Go and sell all you possess and give it to the poor. Save yourself. Seriously, that stuff is wrecking you the moment it becomes bigger than God.

3) Closing the circle

So the average family in Fort St. John is close to six digits on the income scale. Even though cost of living is high up here, that still affords a pretty comfortable lifestyle with some disposable income at the end of the month. God is okay with you being wealthy, AND enjoying the fruits of your labour. Have the house, and put in an espresso machine if you an afford it. Sweet. Get the truck and lift kit if it’s in the budget. Nice :).

The way I see it, liking shiny new things isn’t the problem.

Never being satisfied IS.

"Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty.” ~ Paul (Philippians 4:12-13, Message)

Want to get off the consumer merri-go-round? Determine what is a comfortable lifestyle and the cost of it, and close the circle - make that the end of it. Don’t keep increasing your cost of living in proportion to your income level. Both the very poor and the very rich do this - you can too. When you have extra cash flow for whatever reason, rather than opening the circle, give that money away.

4) Get the order right with spending

Your wallet tells a lot about what’s going on in your heart. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also, right? Sometimes the shiny new things in our lives point to wrong priorities. Shiny new things are never right outside of these priorities in spending:

First you Tithe (seek first the kingdom)
- Matthew 6:33 - Malachi 3:10 - Proverbs 3:9-10

Then you take care of your needs (you and your family)
- 1 Timothy 5:8

Next you give again (offerings to the poor and needy)
- Hebrews 13:16 - Proverbs 19:17 - Matthew 5:42

And lastly, splurge on the “wants” in your life (you and your family)
- Ecclesiastes 5:18-19 - Deuteronomy 12:7

You’ll notice that shiny new things are at the bottom of the list. As long as they stay there, we’re all good.

5) Feast and Fast in Life (Mark 2:20)

This'll help you find balance and equilibrium around shiny new things.

It’s okay to have seasons in life of great extravagance (at least I think so). That’s the feast. Eat whatever you want (that’s me next week over Christmas holidays), drive whatever car you want (or can afford), spend $50 on a bottle of wine, get a new sled.

But your life should also have rhythms of “fasting”, seasons where you go without. This is true regardless of your financial status. Right now, my wife and I are driving older vehicles. It’s a choice we’re making to be “fasted” in our finances, while at the same time giving away more than we ever have before and putting our money-resources into other things like Build the House (the capital campaign for Evangel’s new building). Will this go on forever? I hope the giving will, but I don’t always plan on driving a 2003 Buick Century. In fact, it’s a dream of mine to own a really nice sports car one day. Feasting will come again, and I’m looking forward to it.

But for those that have never gone without, it’s time to make that happen and find a beautiful balance in life at the same time. Buy and live in a smaller house, live off a few dollars a day for your grocery budget (we did $2 a day for two weeks in Fort St. John, it IS possible!), buy and drive an older car, commit to buying used for a year (except underwear and socks), or reduce your family vacation to an inexpensive camping trip within two hours of home. This lifestyle of swinging from fasted seasons to feasting seasons is really deeper than financial issues - it brings a richness and beauty to life that is simply missing without lack.

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About the author

Tony Warriner

Tony Warriner

Tony is the lead pastor of Evangel Chapel in Fort St. John, and is known for his unique approach to local church & spirituality which many find refreshing and/or irritating :). · Fort St. John, BC ·