Thursday, August 9, 2007

Material Girls

By: Rachel Olsen, Speaker Team Member

If you are anything like me –and millions of other women – you find it hard to disengage yourself from the lifestyle of consumerism so prevalent in our society today. How can material things - mere inanimate objects - have so much power over us?

You may have read my “affluenza” devotion last summer where I lamented:

The store-wide clearance sale is going on today at JC Penny’s. I’m trying very hard not to go in search of a fantastic bargain on something I never realized I needed until I saw it. Have you ever noticed how addictive shopping can be? It’s hard to pass up the thrill of the hunt, the satisfaction of the bargain, the excitement of something new, or dare I say the possible envy of your friends.

Somehow every purchase I make seems to lead to more purchases. I buy the kids new winter coats to replace outgrown ones, but now I want to get new scarves to match the new coat colors. I get a mirror for the living room wall, only to find it throws the room off balance and now I need something for the opposite wall. I purchase a black and red sweater only to discover that my old black pants look faded next to the new sweater and head off to the store for new black pants. While at the store I find a fabulous pair of “Legally Blonde” pink shoes on clearance for only $13.00! (Don’t ask why I’m in the shoe department to buy black pants.) It seems a crime not to buy them, but now I need an equally fabulous pink skirt to wear with them.

That’s the thing about money and things; you can never quite get enough. Styles and fashions change with the seasons. Technology improves rapidly. New gadgets and great bargains await you down every aisle. There are always newer and nicer things to be had, and there are always people around you having them.

So what happens when we routinely shop for recreational, emotional or even social purposes? We become in - and in debt. In 2005 it is expected that more women will file for bankruptcy than will graduate from college.

Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Tyagi reveal in The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle Class Parents are Going Broke, “Seventy percent of all Americans say that they are carrying so much debt that it is making their home lives unhappy.” These authors also predict that should these trends persist, by the end of the decade “nearly one of every seven families with children would have declared itself flat broke, losers in the great American economic game.”

So how can we detach ourselves from the desire to spend more than we can reasonably afford – be it on a home, a car, or a sweater? First and foremost we must turn to God. Let’s ask forgiveness for how poorly we’ve handled the money He has provided us in the past, and ask Him to help us begin making wiser choices. We also need to turn to Jesus to fill the emotional and spiritual holes we keep trying to satisfy with more and better things. We cannot purchase our way to wholeness and contentment.

The Bible clearly states that God will not reign in our lives as long as we have material things enthroned in our hearts (Matthew 6:24). Let us renounce money, luxury and possessions as the main goals in life, and replace them with the desire to glorify God, to bless others, and to live out our God-given purposes. Kay Arthur has written a nine week devotional study book called Lord, I’m Torn Between Two Masters that may help us with this important step.

Next, we need to give. Let us give to our local church. Let us give to reputable ministries, and let us bless those around us as the Lord leads. Helping others - indeed helping God accomplish His will on Earth - with our money can be just as satisfying as purchasing a great find. Also, as we give purposely and joyfully, we will deposit treasure in our heavenly bank accounts (Matthew 6:20). Randy Alcorn has written a short book that can help provide us with a big motivation to give entitled The Treasure Principle.

Finally, as Ellie Kay suggested in her article “Debt Diet” in this month’s issue of the P31 Woman, create and follow a monthly budget. Budgets provide a needed plan and a form of accountability. For help with this task, visit Crown Financial Ministries at

The lifestyle of consumerism is all around us. The temptation to try to satisfy our own needs and desires with material things is strong. Ultimately, however, the best bargain in town is still that we can trade our filthy rags for robes of righteousness in the dressing room of our very own hearts.

Rachel is a member of the P31 Speaker Team. Some of her topics include HEAVENLY FASHIONS, and FOOTLOOSE AND FEARLESSLY FREE.