We live in a culture that stimulates a pursuit for material goods and self-satisfaction. Anyone can turn on daytime television and fluster their mind with ‘must have’ product advertisements, self-indulgent talk show mantras, and empty promises of material happiness. It deeply saddens my heart to witness our campus at Taylor University buying into this mentality. Ecclesiastes 2:10-11 warns us about the futility of such pursuits and the empty promises that self gratification and materialism presents us with. It states, “10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. 11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.”
As for our campus community, we need to drastically re-asses our lives and what we put value in. This is especially true in midst of the ever-predominant fact that we are all followers of Christ and are called to live distinctly devoted lives that distinguish us from amongst the masses. Economists want to tell us that ‘more is always preferred to less.’ The more physical capital that we possess, the greater the amount of utility we will acquire. As Christians, we cannot submit to this idealistic train of thought. We must prefer less while considering the complexities of effectively caring for God’s church, his people.
It is hard to not taste the bitterness that arises out of the gully of my stomach when walking around campus. Conversations about the newest line of trendsetting, over-priced clothing fashions seem to be the most valuable topic that we can talk about. Money, possessions: the more the merrier! This autonomous want for material goods has infiltrated the innermost crevices of this campus. It has become the main desire of many students and slowly breeds unhealthy, consume above all else, purchasing habits.
But the saddest thing about this ongoing epidemic is that current students are almost becoming more material-centered than people-centered. The emphasis of what we value has been distorted into physical constraints instead of relational ones. Father Barry snarls out about this topic in the movie, On The Waterfront. He basically screams out saying, “You want to know what’s wrong with our waterfront? It’s the love of a lousy buck. It’s making love of a buck -the cushy job- more important than the love of man.” This prophetic statement needs to be conceptually altered and applied to our campus. In doing this, you might find it despairingly related.
My proposal is that we focus our attention on relationships that hold substance instead of valueless material goods. We were created by God to hold the capacity to have meaningful and rich relations. This is performed by demonstrating love and strengthening our associations with God, family, friends, and enemies. As a community, we need to aspire for greatness in our relationships and value them above all other things on this depraved and decaying earth.
Realize that I am trying to encourage growth in this area without spitting condemning prose. In no way am I above reproach and I struggle with this issue immensely, as we all do. Russian author Leo Tolstoy’s exemplifies this life-long struggle. His life was a living example of trying to give up every material good that created a hindrance in knowing his God more fully. Ultimately, he was never able to fully abolish the spiritual hiatus that physical possessions constrained him to.
I reflected on this issue in a time of uncertainty and doubt. In the face of death, I have been forced to think about my weaknesses and lack of care I distribute to those God has put in my life. It is just too easy to fall into laziness and value the wrong things. In an instant, an e-mail informed me of a tragic mortal separation that cannot be restored until my departure from this life. A single tear’s salty aftertaste would not suffice the inner pain that tormented my soul. I figured out the day did not hold enough time to excrete the sorrow and grief I was feeling.
Yet in the midst of this tragic event, I am able to better understand the importance of life. Life transcends church organizations, school meetings, and extracurricular activities. I plead with this campus to care more about those you hold dear and to cherish the few seconds that we will share together in this life. Don’t spend your entire existence chasing the wind when you can find value in substantial relationships with God and his people. When Father Barry was told to go back to his church and leave the dead body of a factory worker on the waterfront, he confidently stated, “Boys, this is my church.” Remember this and let it guide your daily activities, conversations, and desires.
David and Simon drink a toast
David attended Taylor University in Indiana, USA where this article was published during the first semester of 2004. He and Simon met on the Study Abroad Program in Lithuania in late 2003 and became close friends. In the message David refers to the news of Simon’s death which he says somewhat prompted him to write it. Simon and he both shared the sentiments contained in the article. We were privileged to meet David when he came all the way from Indiana to be at Simon’s memorial service in Stony Plain.