Last week I caught an old George Carlin show on my new satellite dish. It’s amazing what a 19” piece of metal can do to for an otherwise quiet evening. While I’ve read and studied theology from a number of sources, I never expected to get a lesson in theology from Carlin. It goes to show that God can use anything and anyone to teach you something important.
Carlin, who is widely known for his routine on the seven words you can never say on television (although recently I’ve began to doubt those are still accurate), gave a very hysterical and fairly accurate viewpoint on materialism.
Stuff. That’s all it is. Stuff.
“You know why we have houses?” Carlin began. “It’s so we can keep all our stuff in them. And when we buy a new house, we have to buy more stuff to fill our house.” He continued by saying that if we didn’t have any stuff, we wouldn’t need a place to keep all our stuff while we go to work, to make more money, so we can buy more stuff, to keep in the place, where we keep all our stuff.
Oh, how true it is.
And when we get too much stuff, we have to go buy a bigger house, to keep all our new stuff. Then we find out we have a new room that’s empty, so we go out and buy more stuff, to keep in our house. It’s such a vicious cycle.
I myself have been caught in this rat race before, and if I’m not careful, I can get caught up in it again. The reason we buy newer, bigger stuff typically is because we see our neighbors or friends or family members buy bigger, better stuff.
I was perfectly content with the three or four channels my 19” television picked up, until I kept seeing friend after friend with 32” TVs and 100 channels. And now that I’ve upgraded to a satellite dish, I can’t pick up KNCT, the local PBS affiliate. I had begun getting very addicted to their documentaries, and of course, Austin City Limits.
Along with upgrading my television options, I’m considering buying a house. It makes me wonder, am I buying a home as a wise investment, or as a place to keep more of my stuff? The house I have now is great. Granted, it’s right next to the railroad track, and I found out last week at the Belton City Council meeting that apparently the majority of people in my neighborhood don’t like renters—but otherwise it’s a great house that holds my stuff. And I even have a whole extra room where I can hide my “junk stuff.”
So what should I do? Should I spend the extra money each month to have my own place where I can do what I want? Or should I be content with the things I have and avoid the worry and trouble of owning a house? It’s a difficult decision. Unfortunately, Carlin didn’t give any real good theological answers.
Thankfully, King Solomon did over 3,000 years ago. Solomon asks, in Ecclesiastes 6, what good is it to have money and never enjoy it. “I looked long and hard at what goes on around here, and let me tell you, things are bad. And people feel it. There are people, for instance, on whom God showers everything—money, property, reputation—all they ever wanted or dreamed of. And then God doesn’t let them enjoy it. Some stranger comes along and has all the fun. It’s more of what I’m calling smoke. A bad business.”
A friend shared an article with me this week that really illustrated this point. The article told of a man who had won a huge sum of money, and within an hour of wining it, was struck and run over by a car, killing him instantly. What good was his money?
Now in no way am I promoting the idea of going out and splurging all your money to keep up with your neighbors—Solomon says repeatedly in chapters one and two that’s only chasing after the wind. But I think Solomon also says to enjoy the blessings God gives you while you can.
“Say a couple have scores of children and live a long, long life but never enjoy themselves—even though they end up with a big funeral! I’d say that a stillborn baby gets the better deal. It gets its start in a mist and ends up in the dark—unnamed. It sees nothing and knows nothing, but is better off by far than anyone living. Even if someone lived a thousand years—make it two thousand!—but didn’t enjoy anything, what’s the point? Doesn’t everyone end up in the same place?”
Solomon says later, “Just grab whatever you can while you can; don’t assume something better might turn up by and by. All it amounts to anyway is smoke. And spitting into the wind. Whatever happens, happens. Its destiny is fixed. You can’t argue with fate.”
So, where does that leave my decision about buying a house or even buying more stuff that will someday fill a landfill? I don’t know. I’m still examining how all this applies to my current situation—and I won’t even bring my desire to buy a Harley Davidson into the picture. But I do know that above all, I’m going to do everything possible to keep from getting caught up in the proverbial rat race and still enjoy life and the blessings I have each day.