Following on from the ‘Myth of progress’ post a couple of days ago, it strikes me that that is just another facet of the human desire for more.
I mentioned in another post that:
Research has shown that however much people earn, they always think they’d be happy if they just had 25% more.
This is not just true on a personal level, though, we have also translated it into a cultural value – part of the song we sing. If a company doesn’t make more (product and profit) this year than it did last, it is failing. If a country’s economy isn’t growing, it’s in trouble.
This is a bizarre way of measuring. It means that even if every person in the world owns one of your products and it is working perfectly and meeting their needs, you can’t call that a success, unless the next year you sell even more. Even if everyone in a nation is warm, well-fed, productive and happy, your country could crash in the markets if you don’t accumulate more and more money. It has become the norm for companies to increase their employees’ pay year on year. Is that because the cost of living is going up, or does the cost of living go up because it can, knowing that wages are going up?
Say I build two houses side by side. They cost me £100,000 each to build. I sell one for £200,000 and live in the other for a couple of years. It stays in the same condition, the area stays the same, nothing changes. If, at the end of two years, I decide to sell the second house and get £200,000 for it, people will consider that I have made a loss, or that the housing market must have crashed, because it must be worth more today than it was two years ago.
Or let’s bring it down to a really practical level, something we can all be participants in.
I haven’t done any research into this, but I can state with a reasonable degree of confidence, that there are enough clothes in the world to give everyone a few outfits – even if you discount the ones that are so hideously ugly or out of fashion they are unwearable. We don’t NEED to make any more clothes for at least a couple of years, yet BHS, Marks and Spencer, H&M, Next, Matalan, Tesco, Gap, Primark, Monsoon, Dorothy Perkins, Moss Bros, TM Lewin, Burtons … and the dozens of other clothing manufacturers … have to keep churning out more and more – and more this year than last – because we have decided as a culture that enough is not enough. In fact, not even that – abundance is not enough.
I’m pointing the finger at myself, just as much as anyone else. My wardrobe and drawers are full to bursting – every time I open the cupboard, a cascade of shoes tumbles out, I have vacuum-bags under my bed filled with out-of-season clothes because I can’t fit them all in the cupboard at the same time. Yet I still think I need more.
A sermon I heard recently suggested that the desire for more is something inherent to humanity. It’s not just a sinful desire; we had it before the Fall. The sinful part is when we attach it to a desire for more stuff, more money, more fame, more friendships, more excitement, more, in short, of anything other than God.
Those other desires are all about seeking to build ourselves up, make ourselves greater (even if only in our own eyes), and gain personal satisfaction. The desire for more of God is the desire to become more like Christ, and thus to reflect more of God into the world around us, in order that He would get more glory.
The drive for more in politics and economics is doomed to failure – there simply isn’t an endless supply of ‘more’ in the world, and even if there were, it would never satisfy us. Only God can do that.
I suspect that if we seek more of Him we will quickly be satisfied – Jesus told the woman at the well that whoever drinks the ‘living water’ He gives will never thirst again – yet that satisfaction won’t lead to complacency, but a drive to share this amazing gift with more and more people.
I’m not very good at looking for ‘more’ in the right place; shopping is far easier, and a quicker ‘fix’, but I know that it is a very short-term fix, so I’m trying to shift my focus from more stuff to more Christlikeness. It’s not easy, but I believe it will be worth it – and it’s the only thing that can fix me and fix our broken culture.