Tuesday, May 08, 2007

What Can A Dad Do About "Materialism?"

In November 2005, the Internet Strategies Department of Lifeway, an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention, began soliciting participation in the “Top Ten Issues Facing Today’s Family Research Project.” They discovered through the participation of over 2000 respondents that American families struggle with a variety of issues ranging from “An Anti-Christian Culture” to “Materialism.” The full results are available at www.Lifeway.com/Top10.

As I reflected upon the survey results, I began to think about my responsibility as the leader of my home, as a husband and father concerned with these issues. Am I to be just a passive victim here or can I have an impact upon how these issues affect my family? In the new format of the monthly “Dad2Dad Connection” I offer my thoughts as a “regular dad,” as one who struggles as much as anyone else, seeking to lead my family to follow Christ in this culture. I write this article, reaching out to committed dads like you who will read this and contribute your thoughts on the subject as
well.

Let me start with a couple of key quotes from Lifeway’s article: “Materialism is being hurled at us in every television, billboard, radio, and internet screen we encounter, not to mention peer pressure. Too often parents substitute ‘presents’ for ‘presents’ which, I think, leads children to value things more than people”-Vickie R., Springfield, GA “We suffer from Affluenza in this country - we have so much, and kids are learning to want more and more and more, without assessing the true value of “things” in life, or the fact that so many do without.” Patty F.,
Henderson, NV

First of all this issue strikes right to the core of a Christ-following father as disciplinarian in his family. Discipline, the teaching our children to accept “No,” has to begin with us fathers. If we are not living self-controlled lives that include saying “No” to what we think we need to make ourselves fulfilled, then we are not modeling self-control for our children.

Could materialism be only a symptom of a deeper problem? I know my generation, the Baby Boomers, and those who have come after us, have not heard “No” very much when it comes to our spending. We have passed down the attitude of entitlement to our children. Debt is a huge problem for families today. Consumer credit and mortgage debt are both a higher percentage of disposable income in America than ever before. In other words, what families owe versus what they are worth has never been so high. We have lost sight of the concept of savings and delayed gratification and have opted for debt and instant gratification.

To combat materialism we need to consistently be willing to say “No” or “Wait” when it comes to purchases, and then teach our children the same thing. This doesn’t mean that we need to become killjoys denying ourselves, or our kids, everything except the bare essentials. Our Heavenly Father delights in extravagantly providing for us when we least expect it, but He doesn’t overdo it. He knows how best to provide for us in this fallen world.

But when we fail to say “No” or “Wait” with our purchases the result is debt, entitlement and ingratitude. “It (the grace of God) teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright lives in this presentage.” (Titus 2:12)

Another way to look at this materialism challenge is in the way we view our work. A wise man in Proverbs23:4 warns, “Do not wear yourself out to get rich, have the wisdom to show restraint. Cast but a glance at riches and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.” The temptation is to fall into either of two extremes: either we will obsess over our work at the expense of our families, or we will neglect our work to the material harm of our families.

The first extreme tends to substitute our “presence” for our “presents” as stated above, which creates children who are addicted to “stuff.” The other extreme tends to lead our children to believe that their unhappiness is because of their lack of “stuff.” Either of these helps perpetuate a materialistic attitude to the next generation.

Still another way to confront materialism as a father is for me to become active in my role as protector of the media images that I allow my children to see in our home. We recently got “Tivo” for our television viewing (the ability to tape programs and fast forward through the commercials). It is amazing to me to see the vast quantity of messages we are being bombarded with when I fast forward through them with remote control in hand. They clearly appeal to “the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does.” (John 2:16)

In the past when they were a little younger we played a game with our kids, called “spot the lie.” They were to identify the false messages behind the commercial they watched. (For example, "if you you drink this brand of beer the girls will like you.") Okay, full disclosure, I paid them a quarter for every lie they could spot. Sometimes you have to fight materialism with…materialism!

Then finally, with materialism, I don’t believe it is enough to “play defense.” Cindy and I have experienced great joy as a couple when we have chosen to use our home to reach out to others. Our family has been enriched greatly when we have participated in short-term mission projects together. (My son, Adam, and I are going on a father-son mission trip to Nicaragua this summer with some other fathers and sons.) Since 1997,when old oldest daughter, Heidi, challenged us to be more involved, we have tried to expose our kids to opportunities to serve others who are in need of just the basics, like a roof over their head. What we have learned as a family is that it truly is more blessed to give than to receive and that the people of Latin America that we interacted with, though poor financially, are wealthy in ways that most North Americans would be unable to comprehend.

So what do YOU think about this issue in regards to YOUR family? What have you done to stem the relentless tide of materialism from flooding into your home and drowning your family? If you have some insights or ideas that you would like to contribute please do so. Click on comments below.... Thanks

1 comment:

Brother Le'Troy said...

Materialism. I guess I never thought much about it because the images of using sex to sell everything are so disturbing. I don't evny you having young ones to raise in todays society. I thank God for men like you. May He continue to keep His right hand of strength on you and those placed around you by Him. In Christ name I pray, AMEN.