When I was at school I can’t remember why but I was doing a project on TV advertisements. The project was based around what type of adverts were shown at different times of the day, and how those adverts differed in style. Not surprisingly those shown in breaks during children’s TV on a Saturday morning were for toys, and games. The adverts were brighter, faster moving, and clearly aimed at children.
We live in a consumer society, where the focus seems to be on whether we have the latest things, how could we possibly cope without them? They’ve changed TV adverts so that you still know what is being advertised even though you fast forward through them. Our computers and smart phones are inundated with adverts all the time, adverts which are tailored for us based on our age and gender, but especially on what we have looked at on the internet, and shopped for in the past. Things are suggested to us which we didn’t know that we needed, but suddenly we are not sure how we could live without them.
I have been informed that my phone is due for an upgrade in December, there is absolutely nothing wrong with my phone, but I’m already planning what phone I am going to get. We live in a consumer world.
We also live in a world where there are certain expectations of us, that we are supposed to follow a certain path. If we choose to go against the grain, and stand out from the crowd then we can be judged for that as well. As much as society goes on about accepting everyone and embracing those differences, how much does that actually happen? A lot of the time we get all of the consumer things so that we fit in with our friends.
Does it make us feel better when we have those things? Possibly. Momentarily. But then… there’s a new new thing which we need to get. As Phyllis Bottome says in our thought for the week
“The unfortunate thing about worldliness is that its rewards are rather less than its appetites”
What does the Bible say about worldliness? This is our theme for this week, and one which I think is especially important in today’s society. In the book of James it says that friendship with the world makes us an enemy of God, but also that God is a jealous God.
That seems quite harsh, so I’m going to quickly try and explain. A couple of weeks ago I gave a friend a birthday present, he said thank you and then just left it. Eventually I asked him if he was going to open it. Why did I care? I was quite chuffed and wanted to see his reaction. Another example I’ve been teaching for a long time now, I never get over how quickly a form group or a teaching group get over not having me as their teacher. There may be upset in July, but then suddenly in September that’s forgotten and they are getting on with their new teachers.
These are silly examples I know but I think it helps us to explain where God is coming from when it says we become an enemy and that he is jealous. As Christians we believe that God created us, that he knows everything about us, and yet we choose to be in relationship with what the world tells us we need, and tells us we should as opposed to being in relationship with God. It’s about the choices we make. Right back in the beginning Adam and Eve had everything they could have wanted, but they still went for the one thing they were told not to touch.
If we are choosing the world rather than God, and if this makes God jealous and us an enemy of God then why does he still want to be in relationship with us? James tells us that too… there’s always more grace. In the same way that I don’t ignore pupils who seem to have moved on from me, God doesn’t ignore those of us who seem to be in relationship with the world more than him. However, he does long for our relationship to be with him, after all, he made us and the world we live in.
None of this is to say we should avoid the world, after all we live in the world, we rely on a lot of these things. It does also say in the Bible that we are to be in the world but not of the world. However, we could think about what our priorities are. Three weekends ago I went on a retreat to a place with no mobile phone signal and the wifi wasn’t working. It was amazing, refreshing, and surprisingly freeing! Is our focus on the world, or is our focus on God? What is your priority?
Once again, I don’t really have any answers, mainly because this is a journey I am onat the moment, trying to make my focus God, in my every day. I’ll let you know how I get on.
Challenge: spend some time in quiet without any gadgets. Turn everything off. You may want to go for a walk. Turn your focus to God.
Prayer: father God, we thank you that you created us, that you know us, that you want to be in relationship with us. We are sorry that we sometimes turn away from you and get distracted by things in the world. Help us to turn back to you, for our desire to be to spend time with you rather than the things we own. Amen