Consider how things are going for you! You have planted much but harvested little. You have food to eat, but not enough to fill you up. You have wine to drink, but not enough to satisfy your thirst. You have clothing to wear, but not enough to keep you warm. Your wages disappear as though you were putting them in pockets filled with holes! (Haggai 1:5-6 NLT 1st Ed.)

Conspicuous consumerism is considered the mark of success in America. Why, it is even considered downright unpatriotic by some crazy standard for anyone not to keep spending in times of economic downturn. (Maybe the credit card companies convinced the politicians to sanction and sell that idea!)

A friend in Atlanta recently called my attention to a series in the Journal-Constitution about huge and expensive houses in his city. He also quoted part of a letter to the newspaper's editor that said: "People live in a constant state of 'What I have is not enough because somebody else has more.' This is stressful and creates anxiety. What are we teaching our children with this mentality?"

Not to worry. The kids have gotten the point already. Just try to put the wrong brand of footwear or jeans on them for the coming school year. They'll let you know in a heartbeat that they've picked up on their parents' and peers' label-conscious, status-conferring, wouldn't-be-caught-dead-in-that kind of snobbery.

We're all caught up in it to some degree. And I'm not referring to the fact that some more expensive items are cheaper in the long run because of their quality or that certain brands are trusted more because of a history of better value. I'm talking about the salivation I can feel when I see the newsprint ads for new cars or stare down the TV for the new electronic gizmo being hawked. The three-year-old car I'm driving is fine, and I don't begin to need another gizmo.

Shania Twain sings the mantra of an I-need-more-stuff world:

We've created us a credit card mess
We spend the money that we don't possess
Our religion is to go and blow it all
So it's shoppin' every Sunday at the mall."

Sounds like the words of an ancient prophet, don't you think? But the song continues:

All we ever want is more
a lot more than we had before
so take me to the nearest store." Then comes the punch-line: "Can you hear it ring
It makes you wanna sing
You'll live like a king
with lots of money and things

We're all caught up in it to some degree.
One of the businesses that has boomed over the past few years is mini-storage warehouses. Those companies have figured out a way to make even more money by fostering our consumerism. Once we fill up our living spaces, they'll rent us storage area to put the stuff we don't need enough to use — so we can go out and buy more unnecessary things. Do you see the insanity of it?

It's just a tiny little seed idea. But would you join me this week to put something of real value into a stranger's hand instead of into storage? It's called loving your neighbor. It is the only known antidote to the wicked idolatry of greed.

And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, what good is that? Even sinners will lend to their own kind for a full return. Love your enemies! Do good to them! Lend to them! And don't be concerned that they might not repay. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to the unthankful and to those who are wicked. (Luke 6:34-35)