“Humans seem to always want more” and the current generation is no exception. No matter how much people earn they always want more. Experts have found that irrespective of what people earn they always estimate that the amount they really need to live on is just a bit beyond their means. Many blame it on inflation which is the loss in purchasing power of a currency unit such as the pound or dollar, usually expressed as a general rise in the prices of goods and services.
The Americans have conducted a survey where people were shown a list of items and were asked to name which were essential or crucial for living a good life and to disclose which of those items they owned. They surveyed the same people years later and found that, although many had now acquired most of those items, their list had grown and they regarded others on the list as vital. One illustration was the size of the houses they bought. In the early 1970’s the average new home was 140 sq. metres (1484 sq. feet) but in 2005 it was 225 sq. metres (2385 sq. feet) – 62% more.
Also, expectations of which facilities and fittings should now come with a house have risen. Our first house purchased in 1959 had one bathroom and no downstairs toilet; today people would expect ground floor facilities and a bathroom ensuite to the master bedroom as well as a main bathroom. Back in 1959 the kitchen would have a sink unit and a small coal-burning stove and a pantry. Now it is a fully fitted kitchen, preferably with a granite top, extractor fan, fridge freezers and of course central heating.
The interesting fact that emerged was that no matter what people bought two decades ago, the disposable income left over after taxes and paying bills was approximately 10% and is now zero. This depletion could be attributed to the pressure to spend more and live to a new income level. It is thought that it is not the old scenario of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ but as Robert H. Frank would say it is the “cascading wealth effect.” It seems that those at the top of income distribution who enjoy more luxuries, increase the standard of living for those people below them. This means that coffee makers and toasters now come in stainless steel.
No matter how much effort the government puts into controlling inflation in the end we, the people, need to control our expectations. The solution cannot be simple, but being a Christian can help. We are not, or should not be, influenced by possessions; at death we lose everything except those internal qualities of the soul. Perhaps our yearning should not be for a two-car garage but at least a terrace house up there in heaven. What we sow in lifestyle now we reap in that heavenly future but we have lost the fact of eternity – !
As social conditions in the West increase, the need to dwell on themes of eternity has diminished. The church no longer sings, “Jerusalem the golden, with milk and honey blest.” Its yearning for golden streets, silver lakes and gates of pearl, has been replaced with a triumphalism that makes earth into heaven. The serene sunlight of that celestial city is shunned for the infrared lamp of an eternal holiday. The land where roses never fade has been replaced with tinted silk blooms, which only need dusting.
No longer are the preachers exhorting weary pilgrims plodding to the place of bliss, for the land of pure delight has already begun. Our mega churches suggest they are the satellites of heaven itself, and the combination of hype and holiness answers the need for upward flight to an everlasting spring. Name it and claim it seems to be the answer. You can be rich here, and when you are rich you don’t need God, except in ill health.
The mood has changed since the turn of the century. Whereas the gospel express to happy land was the secondary focus, it is now the prime point of concern, and the journey occupies our attention. Nearly everybody wants a first class seat. Forgotten is the text: “. . . a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Luke 12:33-34). The problem is identified and intensified by a lack of teaching on the second coming of Christ.