Sunday, March 18, 2007

Needs and wants…a long time ago

Preparing for today’s sermon on Jesus’ story about the rich fool (Luke 12:13-21), I ran into some very old but fascinating statistics about the average American's sense of what is a “need” and what is a “want.” It seems that during the century between 1840 and 1940 peoples’ perception of what they needed as well as their identification of what they wanted rose exponentially. During the same period, the number of manufactured articles in the US increased at an even faster pace.

In 1840 the average American needed 16 things and wanted 72 things in an environment in which 6,000 items were manufactured.

In 1940, people needed 94 things and wanted 484 things, while the number of manufactured items had risen to 356,000.

I wish I had been able to find similar statistics for the present, but I was unsuccessful in my attempts. I would like to think that the number of needs, at some point, would level off rather than continuing to multiply. On the other hand, probably no one would be surprised if the number of wants and manufactured items have both continued to increase significantly.

Intertwined with all of this is the subject of Jesus’ story: greed – the desire to have MORE. The rich man thought he had a storage problem. He assumed he had too little storage when in fact he had too much stuff. Both his storage problem and his greed problem would’ve been solved if he had determined to give generously to the poor, rather than hoarding for himself.

No culture has ever needed as much storage space as ours. We add closets, additional stalls in our garages, storage buildings out back, and even rent “self-storage” space somewhere down the road.

Somehow we don’t seem to recognize our addiction to SUPERSIZING and our aversion to DOWNSIZING, nor does it seem to occur to us that if we gave more away to those in need, both our storage problem and our heart problem might be resolved.

The author of Proverbs 30:8, 9 prayed a rather surprising prayer based on his remarkably candid assessment of his tendencies toward independence and idolatry on the one hand or unbelieving panic on the other. I wonder if I would dare to make his prayer my own?

“Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.”


sonshinejudi said...

Pastor, your sermons have been so right on point lately. The Lord has used your sermons to convict my heart. I want the Lord to use me and bring people into my life that need to know the love of Christ. Thank you for pointing out how self and truly greedy we are as a society. I pray God will bless you extra special this week!

Anonymous said...

I heard from David Jeremiah that, on of the great evangelists from Europe; (can't remember which) who when he was in college made 30 pounds per week. He found that he could live on 28 pounds and he gave the other two to God. As time went on, and his salary increased, he knew he could still live on 28 pounds and he gave the rest to God. Throughout his life, with all his successes and books published, he always lived humbly and gave the rest to God. What a great example!!