Consumerism is a way of life for many Americans. Daily we are bombarded with messages from Madison Avenue that tempt us to spend, trade up and buy more than we can afford, while seducing our hearts to serve mammon not God. Jesus said in Matthew 6:24, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (KJV).

Newer translations of the Bible insert the word “Money” for “mammon.” They capitalize the word “money” because of the deep meaning behind the ancient word “mammon,” which Webster’s dictionary defines as “the false god of riches and avarice.”

In Paradise Lost, John Milton used his creative pen to personify the devil and his demons, naming one of the diabolic creatures Mammon. In the book, Mammon is called the “least erected” of the fallen angels. He walks hunched over and with his eyes cast downward as he looks to the ground for lost treasures. Mammon is greedy and always hungry for gold or money. Milton’s depiction of Mammon reminds us how prone we are to worship wealth. No wonder Jesus said you cannot serve God and the god of Money at the same time.

The worship of mammon has contributed to the declining state of our financial unions. Put simply, consumerism is destroying marriages. According to Parent Life magazine, in 56 percent of divorces financial stress is the leading cause of the breakdown of the marriage. Some people marry for money; others marry for love. Marrying someone because you love their money is never a good idea.

Patrick Morley says, “Consumerism, the economic theory that the progressively greater consumption of goods is beneficial, depends on a constant sparking of our desires to buy things – anything and everything. The goal is more consumption. The strategy is to keep the image of the beautiful, wrinkle-free life ever before us, unconsciously marketing to our hidden needs for love, approval, companionship, relief from anxieties and significance.”

As dangerous as consumerism is to our spiritual and marital health, the government encourages us chase after what Morley calls “the beautiful, wrinkle-free life.” Yes, our robust economy depends on consumers keeping up the image by spending more and more. The government tracks our purchasing habits and tells us that life is good when consumer spending is up and bad when it is down. Periodically, the federal government even sends us tax rebates hoping that we will spend that money and stimulate the economy. Make no mistake about it. Mammon relentlessly demands worship.

Recently, over 22,000 people from 44 churches in the Cincinnati area did something to counteract consumerism and dethrone mammon. Together they went on an 8-week journey to explore what it means to break the bondage of materialism and be consumed by God. They were inspired by the words found in Lamentations 3:17-23,

I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity is. . . . Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope. Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

For sure, we’ve forgotten what real prosperity looks like. While consumed by mammon not God, we’ve confused shiny new cars and jewelry, beautiful homes, exquisite dining and exotic vacations with a prosperous life. However, the people who courageously traveled on this spiritual journey called “Consumed” discovered a whole new prosperity as they experienced freedom in tithing, service, and community, and freedom from self-image, financial pressure, and materialism.

Contentment is the antidote for consumerism. However, contentment doesn’t come easy or naturally. The apostle Paul testified, “I have learned the secret of being content” (Phil. 4:11-12 emphasis added). Against the onslaught of savvy marketing from mammon headquarters on Madison Avenue, the biblical idea of contentment seems prudish and old fashioned, and yet we need to remember ‘bling, bling ain’t the real thing!’

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