Throughout this series of blogs I have discussed how consumers’ need for “more stuff” has resulted in more production across the globe, which has in turn lead to longer, harsher working conditions for those who work in these garment factories. In this blog, I will discuss the root of our consumerism; selfishness and self- indulgence.
We live in an era where everything is a constant competition. We need to have the newest and best version of whatever technology or clothing that these massive companies have to offer. This need and desire to have more stuff is a result of a selfish nature that our culture has developed. We are currently seeking fulfillment through the things we buy, rather than the experiences we have with others and time we spend in the Word. In an article I read from PopChassid, I believe their definition of “selfishness” is a perfect way to segue this conversation into my book, “What am I wearing?”. The author writes, “The very idea of selfishness is one that by virtue of its existence implies something deeply poisonous and wrong: that in order to get what we want, someone else must pay a cost”. I honestly do not think I could have found a better definition to tie this commentary about self-indulgence/ selfishness into the concept of consumerism. This definition discusses how someone must pay a cost in order for us to get what we want. In the case of consumerism that Kelsey Timmerman comments on, consumers want more clothes and thus, garment workers in these impoverished countries are paying the cost of working longer days, yet they are reaping no benefit. Consumers want more stuff, but they are not willing to pay the cost. Instead we are forcing people who we do not even know (and we do not realize we are affecting) to bear our burdens so we can have another pair of jeans even though we already own four. When we take a second to reflect, we are being incredibly selfish as consumers. This article was overall very eye opening in its ability to point out how America has become such a selfish nation and I believe is one of the main reasons consumerism has been such an ethical issue.
To tie this conversation of selfishness to scripture, we will look at James 3:14-16, a section we read in class during our wealth and consumerism unit. The scripture reads:
“But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.”
I believe this scripture does a perfect job illustrating the fact that self-ambition and selfishness is an unspiritual act. I especially like how the author calls it unearthly. I think it is important to recognize that when evil entered the world, so did selfishness. This is an earthly act because it is inconsistent with the word of God. To combat this, we need to recognize which of our acts are selfish. As we buy more things that we do not need, we are forcing others to work more and produce more. The biggest issue with this conversation of selfishness is that we are addressing an entire culture. We are not just simply telling one individual to stop thinking about themselves. Rather, we are calling on an entire society to stop performing one habit, and to change their inherent nature of consumption. This is most definitely a daunting task, but I believe people like Kelsey Timmerman are forcing us to have this discussion. Based on the previous paragraph, I believe Mr. Timmerman would again support the claim that our need for more stuff is the culprit of our selfish ambitions. This scripture further reiterated the point that selfishness is an ethical action we fall victim to, but need to work towards minimizing.
Above is the link to the article I read discussing America and its selfishness.
I additionally liked this article because I think it did a sufficient job illustrating the concept of how self indulgence takes a toll on others. The article states, “A person gaining in society must inevitably mean the fall of another.” I believe this is a topic Mr. Timmerman (author of Where am I wearing?) would agree with because as he observed the living conditions of people in countries like Bangladesh and Taiwan, he experienced first hand how these people were suffering. From our perspective as consumers, we do not see this “fall of another” that the article addresses, but I think Mr. Timmerman illustrates that for us. His entire commentary on this issue sheds light on a problem in our society we are not seeing and we do not want to address. No one is going to be willing to admit to their self-indulgence that they are committing, but we need to wake up. This is an issue we need to address head on as a culture and turn to scripture for our response.
To segue the conversation into a biblical discussion, we will review James 5:5 which reads, “You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence.” In class on April 15th when we read this portion of James, one thing I wrote down was that wealth will rot, and we understand this, but we are still feeding our greed by self indulging in material things. I think it is important to recognize too that both “luxury” and “self-indulgence” are used in the same sentence here. We in the Western world live such luxurious lives compared to the communities that Mr. Timmerman visited. We do not realize and appreciate all that we have been blessed with in comparison to those living in these struggling nations. I think this portion of James is especially important when addressing consumerism because we are living in luxury and in turn, self indulging. So, what does the Bible say in response to self-indulgence? The author of James directly calls us out for it. We are living this life that we should not be. So, let’s stop self-indulging and just buying things because we have the luxury and power to. Lets think more about our blessings, our safe living conditions, and our stable jobs. Let us appreciate what we do have and not just buy what we do not. As the author of the article below says, let us take our happiness back and place it in people/ experiences with value.
Below I have also attached a link to an article, by a Christian writer, that is about self-indulging