James 1:9-11 – Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.
When trials are happening around us and temptation is happening within us, it’s very easy to self-soothe. We want the small shots of dopamine to the brain that come with food, drugs, alcohol, shopping, or pornography without realizing that we’ll be worse off once we “come down from the high”. We want to relax, we don’t want to think about the trial, and we want to be diverted from it.
Let’s zero in on one of those self-soothing techniques – shopping. Now, I think the ladies were tracking with me until I mentioned shopping. But it’s my spiritual gift to offend everyone equally, so let’s continue.
Sociologists have two terms – conspicuous consumption and competitive consumption.
Conspicuous consumption is buying something not because you like or need it, but because others will be impressed by it. So, hypothetically, for example, ladies, have you ever bought a pair of shoes that you’ll only wear for a short window of time because they wreak absolute havoc on your feet but will be impressive to other women because they’re expensive? That’s the idea of conspicuous consumption.
This leads to the idea of competitive consumption where we buy things because someone else has it. Since I promised to offend everyone, let’s talk about another category of people – nerdy guys who love technology. When it comes to technology, we need to get the latest and greatest products. Why? Because someone else has it.
Let’s say you have a phone that’s a few years old and it makes calls, sends texts, captures photos and videos, and has an internet connection so you can check your email, look at social media, and check out news apps. Then, a brand new, shiny phone comes out and what does it do? Well, it makes calls, sends texts, captures photos and videos, and has an internet connection so you can check your email, look at social media, and check out news apps. What’s the difference? Basically just $1,000.
We have the mistaken idea that when trials come, if we get more stuff, it’ll give us more joy. If we could just find a way to get the money from the rich people, hypothetically through an election, then we could buy more stuff and get more joy. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s devo as we dig further into the categories of rich and poor as I explain that culture tells us there’s these two categories but, Biblically, there are actually four.
Have you ever bought something to self-soothe or to compete with someone else?