Buying Things Because of Their Utility and Necessity
If something is very useful, we may buy it even if the price is high. This is more so if it is something for everyday use. The only way to be good stewards over such things is to take good care of them so that they can serve us for a long time.
Necessities include those things that we need for the sustenance of life. In these circle of things, there are variations of pricings. We are advised to find and fit our consumption within our means.
In the introductory part of what he entitled Lessons From Royalty, Ravi Zaccharias of RZIM tells of a financial consultant by the name Ron Blue. He says that Ron is a very simple guy dealing with very complex issues. Some years ago, Ravi asked him, “What is it you have learned over all these years of giving people financial counsel and helping them to manage?” Ron answered, “One very simple principle is not to spend more than what you have.” Just that! Sounds to me more of a common sense than a complex matter. But, as it is said, common sense is not always as common. Ron commented that people pay him a lot of money to tell them just that—don’t spend more than what you have.
Ravi must have been as impressed as he was surprised at the simplicity of the advice when he commented: “Just think of how different our economic climate would be today if people had obeyed that simple rule.”
What Ron was saying, in other words, is that we have to make sure we don’t spend what we don’t have. We live in a generation of credit cards where there are large amounts of money at our disposal. This means that some can spend money they don’t even have while others spend their money in advance. For those who cannot control their appetite for things and their urge to swipe the credit card, it is advisable not to secure one.
We must avoid, by all means, spending money faster than we receive it. We must remember the common sense captured by the saying: Cut your coat according to your size. This axiom ought to be an obvious counsel.
We must discipline ourselves to live within our means. If we can’t afford it, we must forget it; we must not even think about it.
Buying Things Because of Their Aesthetic Value
There are things we buy because of their decorative characteristics and attractive disposition. These things may range from the pictures we hang on the wall to the design of our wall unit. They also include the packaging. I have found myself on many occasions buying something because I like the way it is packaged.
I was once visiting a friend when he showed me a framed painting on his wall. He was very proud of the painting. I asked him at how much he bought the painting and the answer shocked me—it was unbelievably expensive. It would have been an insult and insensitive to tell him that I would be reluctant to accept the painting as a gift. In other words, I wouldn’t have spent any money on the painting.
Though we may love some work of art, it is impossible to resist the feeling that sometimes we may pour money on something that is ridiculously expensive. It is equally impossible to demarcate the boundary of what is reasonable and what is not. But it is possible to tell when one has trespassed deep into the unacceptable territory. May the Lord help us so that our discretion maybe influenced by the Holy Spirit.
Untamed consumerism stems from a spirit of covetousness. You want every good thing on display in the shops and those people have around you. Covetousness is like hypocrisy, there is always an element of it in the majority of people. There is always a thin boundary between appreciating the beauty of something and wishing in our heart that it was ours. Like I had already noted, there may not be a problem to be prompted to go buy something after seeing it with someone if we have both the money and the need for it. There is however a problem if we run after every good thing we see around.
Other Small Scale Influencers
Buying Things Because of Addiction
I have been involved in some part time job as a consultant for job seekers. Without jobs, our clients didn’t have solid financial standing in which case, every cent counts. One of the areas we used to counsel them on is about financial management. We would compute and run a budget of both the essentials and ‘non essentials.’ It was amazing to see what people spend over time in things like cigarettes.
It doesn’t matter how essential something is, addiction to anything is not healthy. Smokers may consider cigarettes as essential, but it is an ‘essential’ resulting from addiction—and it is something one can live without. There may be other addictions that rob people of lots of money. In the biblical language, addiction is identified with being overcome by or in bondage of something. Consider what the apostle Peter says:
“While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage. For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.” —2 Peter 2:19-20.
We should stay alert against addiction even if it is about a certain kind of food or drink. Addiction brings with it some unreasonable consumption and indulgences. That means we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be addicted to anything, even if it is food.
Buying Things Because of Association
Celebrity worshippers are the culprits in this case. When I invoke the term ‘celebrity worship,’ many believers immediately count themselves out. But I have noted enough imitation and tendency of some believers to identify with some celebrities to make me conclude that celebrity worship is not confined to people who do not know God only. And one may not need to call it ‘worship’ for it to be one. The way we exalt some people and desire to identify with them in their lifestyle, is all it takes to make one become a ‘celebrity worshipper.’
There are many people who buy things because they see it with a celebrity. This is why the advertising companies like to feature celebrities. Most companies in this respect would create the impression that the celebrity uses their product. The fans would troop the product enthusiastically.
I know of a case where a minister called upon his admirers to pay $50 for a signed copy of a book that otherwise retailed at $17. I wouldn’t ask anyone to pay me more than double the price of my book simply because of my signature. I wouldn’t pay that amount for a signature either.
We should buy things because we need them not because a celebrity uses them.
Reflections and Questions to Ponder 1. What is the most important thing you have learnt from this chapter?2. What is it that influences your buying habits?3. How do you test to find out whether you are addicted to something or not? Is it a big deal that one is addicted to something?4. How has mass production and aggressive advertisement promoted materialism? Do you sometimes ignore the advertisements and the products being dangled on your face?5. How do you relate with celebrities? It may not be sin to allow yourself be exploited by celebrities but it is a sign that one is gullible and can fall for heavier frauds that may lure one into ‘bigger’ sins. What are the dangers of ‘celebrity worship’?6. What are some of the scriptures that can help us resist the waves of the pop culture of materialism and consumerism?