The turn of the new year offers us a time to look back over the past year, and forward to the upcoming year, often with an eye toward setting new goals or making new commitments or resolutions. In keeping with that focus I came across two short thoughts that reminded me of things I need to keep ever before me. They are not new resolutions, but old ones I need to revisit.
The first has to do with a challenge to true Gospel belief and what that should look like -- interestingly brought to me via the words of an anonymous atheist. I found this quote printed in a bulletin dated May 17, 1992 when I was still pastoring in Westport, MA but did not record the source. The second comes from an article I was researching in preparation for my upcoming trip to India. It has to do with materialism and its effect upon the soul.
I found them both challenging and interesting as we enter 2015, and therefore I share them with you. Enjoy.
"If I firmly believed, as millions do, that the knowledge and practice of religion in this life influences destiny in another, religion would mean everything to me. I would cast away all earthly enjoyment as dross, earthly cares as follies, and earthly thoughts and feelings as vanity. Religion would be my waking thought, and my last image before sleep sank me into unconsciousness.
I would labor in its cause alone. I would esteem one soul gained for heaven worth a lifetime of suffering. Earthly consequences would never stay my hand or seal my lips. Earth -- it's joys and its grief's -- would occupy no moment of my thoughts. I would strive to look upon eternity alone, and on the immortal souls around me, soon to be everlastingly happy or everlastingly miserable.
All these things I would gladly do if I believed... but I do not, and judging by appearances, neither do most Christians." An Anonymous Atheist
The second is by Tori DeAngelis, New York Times, Vol. 35, No. 6, Print Version, Page 52, 2004. It has to do with the negative effects of materialism and cultural consumerism on the soul.
Certainly, happiness is difficult to pin down, let alone measure. But a recent literature review suggests we're no more contented than we were then -- in fact, maybe less so.
"Compared with their grandparents, today's young adults have grown up with much more affluence, slightly less happiness and much greater risk of depression and assorted social pathology," notes Hope College psychologist David G. Myers, PhD, author of the article, which appeared in the American Psychologist (Vol. 55, No. 1). "Our becoming much better off over the last four decades has not been accompanied by one iota of increased subjective well-being.".... consumerism is an example of an area where psychology needs to stretch from its focus on the individual and examine the wider impact of the phenomenon, Kanner believes. "Corporate-driven consumerism is having massive psychological effects, not just on people, but on our planet as well," he says. "Too often, psychology over-individualizes social problems. In so doing, we end up blaming the victim, in this instance by locating materialism primarily in the person while ignoring the huge corporate culture that's invading so much of our lives."
The first thought challenges Christians to live their lives more in line with what they claim to believe. The second affirms what the Bible has said all along (though most still have a hard time believing it, since the advertising industry works so hard to get us to believe just the opposite) -- riches will not make you happy, and "Materialism is Bad For You" (the title of another good article by Carey Goldberg).
May your new year be one of significant spiritual growth, Pastor Jeff