Message from Tim

Spend, Spend, Spend!

“Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction and our ego satisfaction in consumption. We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced and discarded at an ever-increasing rate” (Victor Lebow, The Journal of Retailing, 1955).

That ideology, fuelled by advertising, has driven the economy of the western world for the past 60 years. Wants have replaced needs, and our range of ‘needs’ has expanded way beyond the basic necessities of life. The result has been a phenomenal increase in comfort and standards of living, but at what cost? At the rate at which we are consuming resources and creating waste, it is estimated that we would need two or three more planet earths to sustain our current lifestyle. Lebow’s words, which held out the promise of ever-increasing prosperity in 1955, now look like a recipe for environmental catastrophe.

John Wesley’s advice was that we should earn all we can, save all we can and give all we can – and I warmly commend it to you. The current mantra, that we should spend all we can, does not work. Jesus warned us that we would not be able to worship God and Mammon, but that did not stop us trying. It has to be said that the experiment has not been a success. Despite having so much spending power and so many things that we can enjoy, our mental health has suffered. Advertising has created a sense of dissatisfaction within us, which cannot be satisfied by purchasing the merchandise on offer. The sugar rush we can get from retail therapy is no substitute for the spiritual diet offered week by week in our churches.

It feels like it is time for a reset, and the forthcoming COP26 Conference provides just such an opportunity. There is much to be said for adopting the virtues of thrift and generosity. Augustine knew what he was talking about when he prayed, ‘You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they find their rest in you.’ Never make the mistake of thinking that the quality of your life is measurable by the abundance of your possessions. The real question is, what fills your heart?