Summary: Consumerism is running rampant

The Gauntlet

Sayings intrigue me. I am often curious about where the saying came from and what it meant back then. Many have probably heard this saying, maybe you’ve used it or your parents. But I remember my friend’s parents often saying that "this world’s going to hell in a hand basket." Sayings intrigue me. So I looked it up to find out the meaning and origin. It means the situation falling apart, not going as planned or desired. For example: I ran into a bus, I wrecked my car and three people are suing me. My life is going to hell in a hand basket.

It might be closer to the truth to say that "the world is going to hell in a shopping cart." Your soul -- not to mention your budget -- is in mortal danger as you approach the grocery store checkout lane. I can tell you’re thinking, "How can that be and what does that have to do with our scripture?" Well, let’s see.

You go to Kroger’s or Al’s with your carefully prepared list, a list with all of the items you need for the well-balanced, nutritious meals you’ve planned to fix for your family this week. You’ve carefully filled your cart with the needed items outlined on your list. You patiently wait in line, and if you really want to learn patience, wait in line at Aldi’s because they rarely have 2 lines open. But elsewhere, you have a choice. So you pick the shortest one, which is ALWAYS the one that’s slowest.

Now, you may call it “standing in the checkout line”, but I prefer to call it “running the gauntlet”. Remember you’ve carefully followed your list to get exactly what you need. Yet somehow, when the checker starts scanning the items in your cart, it has suddenly filled up with a pack of gum, a box of Tic-Tacs, nail clippers, a four-pack of AA batteries, three candy bars and a magazine for inquiring minds.

If your young child is along, you may also have in your cart a new Pez dispenser, a mylar balloon with a Disney character on it and a plastic "cellular" telephone filled with tiny bubble-gum pieces. If not then you probably have a screaming, upset child in your cart. Have you noticed how stores pack this consumer junk into the narrow gauntlet we must run to get through the checkout counter. Things not on our list are singing their siren song, “buy me! you need me!”. Things staring you in the face as you wait for a “price check on 3”.

Although buying nail clippers or a candy bar not on our list hardly seems earth-shattering or soul-threatening, the truth is that consumerism is being methodically nurtured and stimulated. Shelf space is critical. Where a company’s product is located is fought for and guarded fiercely. Am I right, Larry? Companies scream at us, “You need our product for a happy and fulfilling life”.

Descartes’ "I think, therefore I am" has been left in the dust by the new mantra, "I shop, therefore I am”. Consumer culture has never even heard of, much less considered, God’s revelation to Moses, "I am who I am; therefore, you are." No, we’re too wrapped up in buying bigger houses, fancier cars, 95 pairs of shoes, a closet full of clothes, a boat, jet skis, and on and on. We’re not content with a 2-car garage for our 2 cars. No, we’re seeing homes built with 3 and 4 car garages so we have a place to store our riding lawnmowers, boats, and four-wheelers.

We have fancier cars. There’s no such thing as a “shadetree mechanic” anymore. No, for these fancy cars you need an even fancier machine called a computer, to tell you what’s wrong with your $60,000 car. Fancy used to be chrome trim. Now we have cars with pedals that move closer for shorter people, GPS systems, and some type of infrared system that tells you at night if there is a deer in the road up to 1 mile ahead.

I don’t remember exactly what the commercial is advertising, maybe you’ve seen it. A guy is showing off his big house and his car. He’s grilling with a smile on his face saying, “I’m in debt up to my eyeballs. I can barely make the payments on my credit card.” In the final scene, he’s riding his lawnmower, still with this grin on his face to hide his pain saying, “Somebody, please help me.” Friends, we’re running the gauntlet and the gauntlet is winning.

This story of the rich man who turns down the invitation to discipleship illustrates that fact. The man comes to Jesus with a question that reveals his awareness that simply following rules, even the finest religious rules, is not finally sufficient for a real relationship with God.

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