Technolust is a word I have appropriated to describe my insatiable need to buy gadgets. As I said in the previous post, I love technology; all of it. Anything and everything with a chip, wires or LEDs, I have to buy. Of course, this presents a serious problem because very few people can afford everything they want. I, fortunately (well, it depends on how you look at it), am not one of the very few.
For me, then, this does not result in overconsumption or serious debt, but an attitude of coveting. Or, to put in Pauline terms, idolatry.
But the underlying problem in that is not the idolatry itself, rather an issue of contentment. All of us, to one degree or another, or unhappy with something. We don’t like our job, our house, our vehicle, our computer, our phone, etc. There is something, or many things, that we are unhappy with and want a change.
There is nothing wrong with not being satisfied with a product or service. For a while I had a T-Mobile phone that had horrible coverage in my house. When I took it out of my neighborhood, it worked great. I was dissatisfied with that service, so I got rid of it. (Also, I realized a phone is just a wireless leash.)
The problem comes in when I link my unhappiness with my phone (or computer, et al) to my entire life. So I convince myself that I am not happy now, but if I get that iPhone, if I only pony up the $600 and however much a month, then my life will be complete and I will be happy. True happiness will come when I get what I want.
The makers of technology, being good at what they do, work hard to create this unhappiness in us. Apple especially is great at making me feel like my life is a miserable mess because I don’t have their latest thing. (Microsoft, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. They create virtually no desire in me, and most consumers, to buy their products. In fact, I feel as if my life is somehow better because I don’t have a Zune or Vista.)
We as a culture (to say nothing of me as an individual) have so linked what we have with what we are that it is almost impossible to distinguish the two. This is the biggest lie of the Boomer generation: riches equal happiness. This is why people nearly cripple themselves to buy the biggest house, the biggest SUV, the best gaming system or the 100″ plasma. If we have the best stuff, our lives will be complete.
But it’s a myth. It’s the fruit being offered us while the serpent promises eternal happiness. It’s the golden calf we’ve fashioned while standing at the base of the mountain. It’s a lie exchanged for the truth.
There are a lot of passages out of the Scriptures that I could list, but I will only mention two. The first is from the Sermon on the Mount:
No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. (Matthew 6:24-25 ESV)
There are actually a number of things to say about this passage, but I don’t want to get sidetracked. Jesus is saying that money (and by extension, food, drink and clothing) cannot rule us. This does not mean we should live only for today, in the sense that we should not have some preparation. If this were so, Israel’s agrarian economy would have quickly fallen apart. What we should not do is allow these concerns for the future rule over us, becoming higher priorities than God himself. Again, that is idolatry.
Here is a passage from Paul:
I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:10-13)
If you’ve ever read Burrough’s great book “The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment“, then this passage will be very familiar to you. In fact, this may be one of the most “famous” passages in all the Scriptures (of course, most of the time you hear it, it is used wildly out of context).
For Paul, contentment, or happiness, does not come from material possessions, but from Christ. Whatever his current situation happened to be, and he had a lot of bad times in his ministry, he was still content. This contentment that comes from Christ is just as much for you as it was for him.
I need to read that to myself every day. I need to pray for that all of the time. My technolust would have me believe I am unhappy because I don’t have the best stuff, but Christ tells me otherwise. I have Him, and therein lies my contentment.