Cal Thomas: Problem with prosperity is it does not satisfy

12/04/2013 12:00 AM

12/03/2013 5:21 PM

“If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there’d be peace.” – John Lennon

“Black Friday” was a metaphor beyond the merchants’ bottom line. News stories from last week told of brawls and mayhem and reflect a culture that is being trampled by the greed and “me-only” attitude of a growing number of us.

Once such stories seemed isolated, even bizarre. In the era of flash mobs and a growing entitlement mentality fueled by politicians and “income inequality” alarmists, these far too frequent instances now seem to be symptomatic of a decaying culture.

Like those with symptoms of illness who refuse to see a doctor, ignoring this pestilence that is destroying our foundations ensures it will get worse. These incidents are the result of a nation that has ceased to impose – yes, impose – the old values that served previous generations well.

The dark night is rising, and it isn’t a Batman movie.

People and nations must be ruled by something, or there is anarchy. Either it is God or secular laws that control our lower nature. Today we are out of control as we pursue happiness through prosperity in the false hope that money and things will satisfy. The problem with prosperity is that one is never satisfied.

As the ancient writer said, “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income” (Ecclesiastes 5:10). Who today is satisfied with their income and circumstances?

In my neighborhood there are old houses built during World War II, and at that time they sold for less than $20,000. One of these houses is for sale for more than $1 million. Far larger and more expensive homes stand on lots where smaller and cheaper homes once stood. These new homes are called “tear-down houses.” How many regard these larger houses as stepping-stones to an even bigger next house? What is the purpose, other than ego fulfillment? The estate sale is the end of it all.

If things satisfied, wouldn’t Americans be the most satisfied people on Earth? We have more stuff than any generation before ours. The overflow we deposit in rented public storage units. The stock market is up substantially, but we want it to go higher with no bursting bubble this time. Then what? What will we do with more? Will tomorrow’s more satisfy when today’s more hasn’t?

Previous generations had less, yet seemed to have more of what matters: more character, more virtue, more contentment – all of it reinforced by parents, clergy and, for the most part, culture. In our day, materialism has become a false god we worship in the vain hope it will bring peace. In our conspicuous consumption we are self-immolating, and the fuel is materialism.

Writer Jess C. Scott has said, “If money’s the god people worship, I’d rather go worship the devil instead.”

Given the behavior of so many on Black Friday and other examples of cultural decay and national decline, many of us seem to be doing just that. Israel’s King David warned, “The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among men.” (Psalm 12:8).

Can’t say we haven’t been warned.

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