Giving things up – Entitlement and Consumption

Feb 14

Yesterday was the first day of Lent, a time when Christians often make an attempt to “give something up” for forty days in order to induce some reflection on the sacrifice of Christ.  As Christians, we are not the only faith that gives things up from time to time in order to focus ourselves on sacrifice and to return to what is truly important.

Following is a quote from a book of devotionals for Lent that I received last week.

“The practice of Lent can be a valuable discipline. It’s difficult to grasp what our sense of entitlement does to our bodies and souls. Our culture worships at the feet of pleasure. As we ‘shovel it in’, we can become desensitized to our needs – the real hungers of our lives. Observing Lent can help us wrestle with the causes of our perpetual consumption. When we decide to relinquish what fails to truly satisfy, we come face-to-face with some tough questions. ”

This really made me think about what has happened to our society over the course of the last thirty years or so.  Consumption and Entitlement are everywhere. I was struck by the recent telephone company ad with a man sitting around a table talking to little children in a kindergarten-like setting asking them if “bigger is better”.  I have seen this ad in various iterations and each time I am disturbed by the message it is sending our children.

More, bigger, faster – is it really all “better”?  I don’t think so.  In the ad posted above he asked the children if a bigger tree house is better.  They end up talking about widescreen TV’s and having a tree house giant enough to have a disco in it.  Is this the message we want to send our children?  Its these subtle messages we bombard our society with day after day that begin to creep in to our psyche.  It makes people think if they don’t have a bigger house, bigger TV, more stuff that they aren’t any good.  It also sends the message that everyone is “entitled” to all this stuff.

We aren’t better by the things we acquire.  We are better by the richness of relationship we have with each other and with our higher power.

We aren’t entitled to “things”.  We must earn the things that matter in life – respect and honor, as well as, the fruits of our labors.

We aren’t entitled to have any of these things given to us.  The more that is given to us without our labors, the less we value what we have.  If no effort and toil is required to put the roof over our head, we do not learn the value of that roof and often don’t respect what it took to build.  If no effort is required to prepare our food, we lose our understanding of the value of the nourishment.  As everything in our world gets boiled down to what is most convenient and cheapest, we lose site of the value of the things in our daily lives.

For lent I decided to give up bread.  I had a discussion yesterday with a friend about this choice and decided to give up all bread except for any bread that I might make myself.  If you have never made bread, I suggest you give it a try.  Real homemade bread requires some effort and toil, it doesn’t last for weeks on the shelf and it much more nourishing than anything you will find in the grocery store.  I do not know if I will make bread over this forty day period, but I know that if I do I will certainly consume it with a much greater appreciation for what it represents in terms of the work that goes in to making it and the nourishment it provides.

Here is a link to a website that has the instructions for the Mediterranean Country Bread I made last month.  It takes three days to make.

As wander through my musings on this blog post I am thinking I might have also thought to give up television.  I have been making an effort since the first of the year to watch less TV.  I am finding that I get more accomplished and spend more time talking to my family when the TV isn’t on all the time.  I used to turn Good Morning America on every morning while the kids were getting ready for school.  Over the course of the morning I would get sucked in to one silly story or another instead of talking to my kids.  They also got sucked in and were often late getting ready.  I have stopped this practice and also try not to turn the TV on most evenings, instead opting to record a few shows that I like and watch them every once in a while rather than watching live and ending up down the rabbit hole for the rest of the night.

There was as story on NPR last week about a school here in Denver that asked all of their students to give up all electronics for 2 weeks.  Can you imagine 2 weeks without television, email, facebook, tweets, texts and cellphone!  Unimaginable in this day and age.  While the children said it was very difficult at first they also said they enjoyed themselves more playing board games and interacting personally with friends and family.  Their teachers and parents noticed that they were calmer and more peaceful.  There was much less tension.

So over the next forty days, whether or not you are giving something up, try to stop and reflect each day and whether or not you are letting consumption and entitlement get in the way of having a richer life and richer relationships with your family and God.  Stop for just a moment or two each day and reflect.

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