After many visits to a shopping mall, Richard, my black South African friend who grew up under that country’s apartheid laws (1948-1994), concluded that “Americans appear to purchase many items they neither need nor can afford.” By contrast, while he really needed a winter coat, he delayed his purchase for three months so he could enjoy buying it at the best price. His words reminded me of G. W. Frazer’s hymn which asks, “Have I an object, Lord, below, which would divide my heart from Thee?” I realized that our closets and drawers are so filled with all the things we “had to have” that increased storage space is the number one priority among homeowners. In fact, the rental storage business is one of the fastest growing businesses in the USA.
Was Richard suggesting that Americans are a covetous and materialistic people? His words brought to mind the parable of the rich fool: “What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops? … I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all … my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool!’”(Lk. 12:17-20 NIV).
By contrast, Richard’s simple life-style – necessitated by the oppressive conditions for blacks in his home country – actually resulted in a life that Jesus referred to as “rich toward God” (Lk. 12:21). While he would never wish apartheid on anyone, he said, “We don’t have much, but we’re much more satisfied and thankful to God for the little we do have.”
As I considered whether we Americans are more like Richard or the rich fool, these words from the Bible came to mind: “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have” (Heb. 13:5). Does covetousness lead to contentment?
By Larry Ondrejack
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org