I vividly remember the day in my early twenties when I was sitting in the comfortable living room of my upper-middle class home and felt a void and restlessness within me that none of the plush surroundings or gadgets around me could assuage. In that fleeting moment, I sensed the powerful truth that material things cannot fully satisfy or give us happiness. I realized that our spirits will never be satisfied until they are in union with the great and loving Spirit who created them. As Augustine said to God in his autobiography Confessions, “You have made us for yourself and our hearts find no peace until they rest in you.”
We’re constantly bombarded with advertisements telling us to buy newer and better things. It doesn’t matter if we’re content with what we have, or already have more things than we need, or simply can’t afford more. We’re told that better things will make our lives better! But in addition to making our lives more stressful, consumerism also puts enormous stress on our planet. Mahatma Gandhi said, “There is enough on earth for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.”
Thomas à Kempis (1380–1471) said that “the happiness of man does not consist in abundance of this world’s goods, for a modest share is sufficient for him.” In more recent times, Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862) echoed this when he said, “Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify, simplify!” I too have found that having too many goods keeps me from enjoying what I have to the fullest, and that the simplest pleasures of life, which don’t cost much, provide us with the greatest happiness.
In the book of Isaiah, God says, “Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which does not satisfy?”1 We were created as eternal creatures; that’s why the temporality of materialism leaves us with an empty feeling.
The greatest and most precious possession we can ever have is eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”2 Only God can satisfy the thirst and hunger of our spirits, because He created us with a space in our hearts that only He can fill. We enjoy that satisfaction in our inner being as we deepen our relationship with Him.