Desires to acquire material possessions...are they wrong?


#1

So I often daydream about various material possessions I want to buy for myself, usually airsoft/paintball/laser tag guns, or RC boats, or something.

I don’t have the money for these things but I do have desires to want to purchase them.

Here’s the thing:

  1. Are these desires sinful and wrong? I feel that perhaps I should not be thinking so much about these things, but this is something I have done since a child (so it would be difficult to erase).

  2. Should my desires focus solely on Christ, or is it okay for me to desire certain material possessions to use for entertainment purposes (which is why I would want these things, as a hobby of sorts)?

  3. Often times, when I try thinking about these things in depth and detail, I get frustrated because either A) I can’t afford them and thus can’t own them, B) My desires are ever changing, and eventually I am driven to a point where even the thoughts and desires for these things no longer provide satisfaction but exist solely as frustrations, and C) Since many of these things are things I want to build myself, I try to understand how they work in detail, which sometimes leads me to frustration when I realize how difficult it is to build these things myself. Furthermore when I do get frustrated with these thoughts I am given a stark reminder that these things cannot truly satisfy (only Christ can) and that doing without them would make life easier and more rewarding.

I am wondering what to make of these desires and if I should stop indulging in them. This is driven by my understanding that we should not focus on these things and should instead focus solely on following Christ.

Suggestions?

Pax Tecum.


#2

You’ve gotta be careful to not allow these things own, even when you don’t own them.

I myself am a gearhead, and I can actually afford German sports cars, but I chose not to own any. As a matter of fact, I even quit on buying new cars. The reason is that I’m afraid that I’m an easy prey to be owned by these things. And it’s not that hard to resist them, really.

:blessyou:


#3

Just to clarify, you mean “…not to allow these things to own you…”. Is this what is essentially happening to me? What does the phrase “things owning me” entail?

I guess I’m also a gearhead, but for firearms, modern architecture, and warships. I used to be a huge car nut but that waned significantly when I switched majors from mechanical engineering to business.


#4

I don’t really know you, but I mean that if you see yourself stretching your finances or neglecting time for your loved ones in order to pursue these possessions, it’s a clear sign that you’re not their master, but the other way around.

I try to look at possessions toning down how they tickle my greed and envy by emphasizing their utilitarian benefit. Do I need a house as big as the Joneses’? Do I need a fast convertible two-seater? Do I need to watch Mr. Angelica on a 50" TV? I cannot find a good reason to answer positively to any of these questions.

:blessyou:


#5

Lotuscarsltd,

There is nothing inherently wrong with having a desire for a nice material possession or two so long as a person is not falling into the trap of envy or coveting someone else’s belongings or otherwise getting into a sinful behavior such as stealing to obtain things or neglecting one’s responsibilities for the material things.

I think that a little desire can be a motivating factor in engaging in hard work over a long period of time. I worked full-time at night and went to college full-time. It was not fun. I was able to daydream about having a job where I could afford a reliable car and perhaps my own home as a motivation.

Maybe for you, a desire for a certain “toy” or hobby can motivate you to work harder in school or in your job.

It was motivating to know the good things that more money and education could do for me, my family, my charities and church. I did not and do not work hard for a love of money or material goods on their own, but I do love the good things that my salary can do.

I don’t feel sinful for spending a reasonable amount on “toys” for myself over the years as I save the money in my “entertainment” budget. I mean things like craft supplies, occasioanal DVDs, a TV large enough to view comfortably with friends. My next “toy” will be a Wii game system to share with my family/friends. Sure I could give every extra penny to the poor, but I don’t think that most people can live that way forever. Finding a balance in life is important.

I think that what is “reasonable” will vary for each person given their life goals, priorities, age, income, etc. It is important to recognize that everything we have comes from God’s grace, so we should be thanking Him for what we have and what we may get in the future. We need to get guidance on what being a good steward means in our life.

A good person to discuss this subject with might be the parish priest or a spiritual director. If there is a religious order in the area, they can often be a source to find a spiritual director among the monks/priests who may have more time to talk and give guidance on life issues and spiritual development than a parish priest.


#6

I’m going to SUPER DITTO everything that Augustine said and add my two-cents to the mix.

Things are neutral: a house, car, clothes and so forth. They have a purpose in life and we have to thank God that he has given us the knowledge to make life more comfortable and our work more efficient.

That being said, there is something called Love. Society has trained us to love things, rather than use them appropriately. Notice that ads for things never speak of loving others. When they speak of love, they equate love with giving things to others, rather than giving our selves to others.

When the love of things gets in the way of prayer, family life, rest, and service to others, there is a real problem. True detachment means putting aside those desires that interfere with who we are meant to be.

The focus has to be on being, not having and not doing. We are called to be Christ-like.

Did Christ have a home? Obviously yes. He was a carpenter’s son. Joseph worked for a living.

Did Christ have property? The Scriptures would suggest that he had money. He sent the Apostles to buy food.

Did Christ have clothes? The Scriptures tell us that they cast lots for his tunic. It must have been a nice one.

The point here is that Christ also says “The Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” How do we reconcile this statement with these other facts? Christ is detached from these things. They are available to him, but they are not essential to fulfilling the Will of his Father. Therefore, he can give them up and he does.

The question is whether we’re ready to give up that extra large TV, the brand new car, the larger house, the extra clothes in the closet that never get worn and the excess furniture in our home to create time and space in our lives to be better parents, better employees, and more just people?

Do we realize that when we give in to consumerism we make someone rich who is already rich, while the hungry, the sick, the elderly and the abandoned continue in their misery? What would happen if we keep the TV that we have and donate the cost of the super large TV to the poor? What would happen if we cut down on the things that we own?

We may have more time to spend with family, time for prayer, time for ministry, time for rest. How many of us realize that material posessions require time and energy to care for them? Do we remember that those things that we put on our credit cards have to be paid for? That means that we have to work harder, sometimes longer hours. That is time that we take away from the essential duties of life.

Someone said that we should live simply so that others could simply live. Mother Teresa has often been accredited with this saying. I’m not sure if that is accurate, but regardless of who said it, it makes sense.

The best example that I can think of is found in monasticism. Monks and nuns who live the cloistered life often own property for the common good. Yet each one of them owns nothing. The focal point is the common good.

We need to take their example. There are two key words “common” and “good”. If one has a family, they are the community. It is their good for whcih we are responsible.

Those of us who are single or celibate also have a common good to think about, the poor and the destitute who make up the Body of Christ.

It was for those who were poor, materially and spiritually that the Son of Man gave up his place to lay his head.

Happy New Year!

Fraternally,

JR :slight_smile:


#7

St. Ignatius thinks one root of evil is the material things we crave.

I agree with his viewpoint. Material things themselves are not bad. The desires of craving for such things could put us in trouble. The Bible tells us to dwell on things in heaven, not things on earth. The bottom line is the priority and value we set for life.

I think when we are young, we are more attracted by different things of the world. The longer we follow Christ and the older we get, it is easier to ignore material possessions and only focus on the one most important thing - our relationship with God and eternity. That is my personal experience. I am at the point of being detached from material things. They simply have no attraction to me. But this is a process. Detachment is a process.


#8

:thumbsup:

Balance, charity and simplicity are keywords here and since we live in a materialistic society our own ideas of true balance are very often askew. We need to start thinking of our “needs” since in this society our “wants” will be included in those. When I buy things I often try to ask myself if I need this item more than my homeless, hungry neighbor (or even as much as). Numerous people in this society will claim that they “need” a face-lift to look younger (not to cover burns/scars, etc).:eek:


#9

When Christ first appeared to the Apostles after the resurrection his first words were, “Peace be with you.” Christ is Peace, the messenger of peac and the giver of the law of peace. Through these words, he seals man’s fate to live as an instrument of peace.

Just as roses originate from seeds, the resurrection from the death of Jesus, peace stems from holy poverty. Christ who himself is Peace was born in poverty, lived the life of a working man, and died naked on the cross. Therefore, poverty and human redemption are intimately related on the cross.

Man cannot assume to pursue the benefits of redemption, without assuming the humanity of the Redeemer. The Redeemer detached himself from material wealth, power and pleasure for the sake of love. Out of the Paschal Mystery, God calls man to follow his Son.

Human wealth, power and pleasure can be a means to peace if one knows how to use them and an obstacle in the hands of one who becomes attached them. When this happens, wealth, power and pleasure become property and man becomes the master. Since there can not be two masters in man’s life, because “he either serves the one and hates the other or hates the one and serve the other” man must make a fundamental choice.

He must choose between using the resources around him to cooperate in the redemptive mission of Christ or to elevate himself to Christ’s place, thus turning his back on him who is the true master of creation.

It is not a matter of whether one has or does not have property, power and pleasure, but whether one attempts to own these or use them for the salvation of humanity. That which does not serve the salvation of humanity only serves to impair the spread of Christ’s peace.

Fraternally,

JR


#10

Now, not to make a stupid comment or anything, but I can agree with and understand what you and several other individuals are saying on this thread.

Overall, though, should I try to eliminate these desires for material possessions in my head? Because I do desire to own various things for hobby purposes, but I get the feeling from your post and others that this is something to be avoided.

What should I do?


#11

Our feelings are neither good nor bad. It’s what we do with them. There is nothing wrong with a hobby. Many saints had hobbies, others had pets and so forth.

We cross the line when these things take away from the time that we spend in prayer, the opportunity to care for the poor, the time that we spend with family and children, if they take away from an opportunity to perform an act of charity.

Some hobbies are just a way of recreation. Recreation is a good thing and necessary for the human spirit. Other hobbies are addictions. Those are not good.

I knew a man who collected metal music. He was often behind in his payment of electric, water and rent. But he always had money for a new CD. This is wrong. You have duties and responsibilities to yourself and your family, not to mention to God and to those who suffer.

JR :slight_smile:


#12

For a person to be perfect, you will be happy having everything or nothing. In this case, if tomorrow, your house burned down and all your stuff was destroyed you would nary shed a tear, but happily say, ‘It is God’s will.’

On the daily everyday basis, if you can give away your stuff or throw it away painlessly, and I mean actually do that, you’re about there.

There’s a difference between intention and feeling vs. actuality here. You can feel like you are this way, but unless you act at it at times to prove it, you nigh certainly aren’t.

Most people however are enslaved to possessions for their immediate gratification, IE, they would get very upset without their TV, internet, email, food, etc. even if deprived of it for a short time or of the usual amount they consume. This is something every Christian, aspiring towards perfection or not, is called to overcome, because it’s called ‘slavery to the world, the flesh and the devil’.

It’s a toughie but love is what overcomes it.


#13

When we die, we carry nothing with us. Just make sure that nothing you own makes you want to stay here.

Everything I’ve ever wanted, by the time I got around to buying it, eventually becames a disappointment. I might enjoy the moment of purchase, appreciate ownership for a few days or even a few weeks, but invariably I feel a let down and sometimes wonder why I ever wanted these things so much to begin with.

Some things that I use or need or think I need, continue to be appreciated. But even then I sometimes wonder if we don’t become too reliant or too dependent on our modern comforts and conveniences.

In light of the worlds poor and destitute, it makes me ask myself am I doing as much as I can, to help others out while I live a life of relative ease ???


#14

St. Bonaventure wrote a series of sermons about St. Francis over a period of about 15 years. He preached many retreats on our holy father. In one of his sermons he said not everyone is called to be a Franciscan, but everyone is called to follow the same path.

At first it is very confusing when you read it. Then you keep reading and he adds that the path of poverty and humility that Francis followed is the path followed by the Abraham, Noah, Moses, the Holy Family and the apostles. In each case God called them to leave everything behind and to trust him.

This trust includes material posessions, said Bonaventure. He observes that all of the above had to leave their homes, the things they owned, the people and places they knew and follow God into the land of unknowing.

Bonaventure points out that one cannot love God and neighbor, while still in love with material property. He adds a little sarcasm and wit into his sermon. He reminds us that we are called to love the Lord God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves and that posesions are not mentioned in this command.

Fraternally,

JR :slight_smile:


#15

I myself am a gearhead, and I can actually afford German sports cars.

Must be nice. I can’t even afford gas for my Hybrid. I have a question. How do you steer away from wanting things? Seriously a friend asked me what would i do if I won the big power ball. I visualized buying a new Prevost motorhome a huge gigantic theatre organ and Lippizzan Stallions. But at the same time I would give anything to just have enough windfall to pay off my mortgage and own my place outright. I am talented enough to make a great living musically and technically yet I can’t get arrested, most frustrating.

Scoob.


#16

I agree with the fact of not worship things to where we want to never be with Christ. But the modern way of living is ok with me!! I live near a huge Amish community and when it is raining or ice cold or piping hot outside I like my car. I like indoor plumbing and AC!!! But I see them in their horse and buggy freezing or sweating. I don’t know I like modern living. And I love horses and riding them is a blast BUT I like to rely on my internal combustion engine to get me around. Scoob.


#17

Two things come to mind. First, one does not always have control over what crosses through one’s mind. Therefore, don’t make steering away from wanting or appeciating things a goal in your life. Thoughts come and go like the seasons of the year. One must always hold on to the thoughts that bring life and let the rest go by. That leads me to my second thought.

“Practice makes perfect.” As we practice letting certain thoughts pass they decreace in intensity and frequency.

We are born poor. None of us is born wearing robes and jewels. We are born naked. We learn from our environment that some things are necessary for our happiness. Therefore, it is quite natural to be poor for the sake of the Kingdom of God, since that is the state in which we arrive into the world.

True holiness is achieved through the daily practice of virtue and it is not achieved over night. The more we study Christian spirituality, the lives of our great saints, the teachings of the Church on materialism and consumerism, the teachings of scripture on love of God over every thing else, the more comfortable we feel with this way of life.

Eventually you arrive at a place where you can appreciate beauty and wealth for what they are. They are neutral. True goodness is found in living in the world doing what we are called to do, without expecting the world to owe us anything for what little we contribute.

Evangelical poverty is about loving God as the highest possible good to the point that nothing else seems attractive, because nothing else compares with God. We must always contemplate the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Mary’s heart is filled with love for God and humanity, without resentment, without need of any material or human consolation, because God is the most holy and perfect good and the most holy and perfect consolation.

Someone like Francis of Assisi discovered this love and lived by it. He also discovered what it means to be faithful to Christ. He read the scriptures, especially the passion and fell in love with the love of Christ poured out on the cross, without any material wealth or wordly power. But not only Christ attracted his attention, but also our Blessed Mother in whom we can see a mother who desires what God desires. She is willing to give it all up, including her son, to fulfill God’s will in her will.

To be truly poor, one must empty one’s will of self and fill it with the will of the Father. That’s why someone like Francis of Assis can say like Jesus, Learn from me to be a true disciple, because I am meek and humble of heart, which I learned from Christ.

The call is to be a true disciple. A true disciple is meek and humble of heart like Christ was. Therefore, he needs nothing other than what Christ needed, the strength to fulfill God’s will in everyday situations. Anything else is unnecessary. If it’s unnecessary, why own it?

Fraternally,

JR :slight_smile:


#18

Don’t blame yourself. I don’t know if you know this but America is the most material nation in history. its not your fault to want material objects, its the medias fault. Did you know Crisco (yes, the baking good) was not originally made for baking. it was originally made becasue the company needed a secure way of attaining its oil (I forgot what kind it is, cottonseed maybe). Anyway they developed this producted and marketed it on a mass scale advertising that it is a must have in the kitchen. Business is as corrupt as it can be so it is not your fault and i certainly don’t hope that you think its a sin. Retail and marketing people are genius in their way of making you think you need something when in fact its just all for the company. Blame the industrial revolution.


#19

America was/is built on a philosophy of creating wants and needs. Madison avenue promotes anything and everything so most people begin to believe that everything they advertise is essential to your well being.

Our entire economy and society is based on buying and selling, and that in itself is neither good nor evil or maybe better put is BOTH good and evil.

On the good side it provides jobs, productivity, a healthy economy, wealth, a means to move up in class, a standard of living that is second to none. It basically makes our economy operate smoothly (up until very recently).

On the bad side, it over emphasizes things or reliance on things. It may distract us from what is really important, the health and welfare of ourselves and other, or may lead us to focus mainly of only on ourselves, or it may lead us to focus only on obtaining wealth or hoarding of money or things.

Money is not necessarily evil. When used properly money can be a great tool to help others. IF you have money, there is a lot of good that you can do with it.

I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to acquiring possessions, but lately I’ve come to realize that I have way too many things. I’ve accumulated so much ‘stuff’ that the vast majority of it will hardly ever be used. And even if it is used, will be useful for a short time and then set aside to gather dust like a bunch of other stuff.

Some things that I think I really need, folks long ago did without. At times, I wonder how folks ever did without these items and I wonder IF I could get alone without them. For example a cell phone, PC, or a TV set, a hundred years ago they didn’t exist, and folks did fine without them. OF course without the PC, I wouldn’t be writing this :slight_smile: But imagine life without a few of todays 'bare necessities".


#20

If you bought a hybrid, you can probably lease a Porsche. That’s at least my case. However, I refuse to buy a new car, much less to lease one, and one which my whole family doesn’t fit in.

Having said that, it’s not that I can steer away from wanting anything. I buy more books than read, for instance. But buying a $10 book that’ll collect some dust until its read is not the same as paying upwards of $500 per month to lease a car, not to mention to fuel and to insure.

So, in the end, to me, it’s as I said before: I tone my wants down by bringing in their utilitarian aspect to the front. I requires some practice, but I at least have been able to keep on driving sedans. :wink:

:blessyou:


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