January 17, 2018

Shop ‘Til you Drop?

Gordon Dickson

FrontLine • November/December 2004

Well, here we go again into another holiday season. It is commonlly understood that the stores have tried to “break even” for the rest of the year hoping to make a profit during this period. As you know, this “season” has expanded over the years. Thus, in American shops, the Christmas decorations now appear sometime in October. Clever marketing has attempted to teach us that “more is better” and that “saving” means “spending.” Pricey Christmas gifts have become more important than the precious Gift of Christ. So, it’s necessary for believers to conquer this cultural thinking in their own attitudes and actions.

To win this victory over vanity, you must turn away from the empty attitudes and actions of this age. Let’s face it, Solomon was the ultimate “shop ‘til you drop” consumer. He had the wealth to buy whatever he chose and the wisdom to see the results. You can read the notes from his experiments throughout the book of Ecclesiastes.

Like many today, he tried to find real happiness by amusing himself with comedy, alcohol, new houses, new properties, animals, money, collectibles, and all sorts of music.[1] Solomon’s notes show that substituting goods for God is a recipe for despair. Through the window of the Word, believers recognize this substitution as idolatry. Of course, modern society tries to disguise this idolatry with words such as alcoholism, individualism, materialism and experientialism. In each case, the word can be defined by preceding the root word with “an unusual devotion to.” The fact is that many modern day “isms” are the same things the ancients called idols. Society also hides the pursuit of pleasure in more subtle ways: standard dinner plates and hamburgers have both expanded by more than 20 per cent, and today’s soft drinks are 50 per cent larger than those of past decades. Vendors have been consistently “super sizing” our expectations. The words from a recent advertisement sum up the world’s approach: “Don’t do nothing you don’t want to do. Ain’t nothing funny about you. Keepin’ it real and do what you feel. You gotta eat, eat Rally’s.”[2] In the findings from his own experiment in emptiness, Solomon warned all of us to turn away from these (sometimes subtle) attitudes (12:12).

To win this victory over vanity, you must learn to fear the Lord (12:13). This fear of the Lord is an attitude of loving respectfulness that recognizes God’s Presence at all times. This attitude of fearing the Lord helps each believer look at life and lifestyles through the Lord’s eyes. With this approach, each of us can learn to recognize the idolatry and vanity of this age.

A careful examination of the Scripture passages that discuss the fear of the Lord will transform your way of thinking. These passages reveal that the person who knows the fear of the Lord will be secure and satisfied. He will not continue his empty pursuit with meaningless results. Solomon’s findings in this text closely parallel other transforming passages such as Ephesians 4:22- 24 and James 1:21-22. The fear of the Lord renews your mind and helps you to think correctly. When you look at the holidays from the Lord’s perspective, giving thanks sets aside thoughtless gluttony—God means more than gifts. You can be victorious by setting aside the world’s empty attitudes and learning the fear of the Lord.

To consistently win this victory over vanity, you must obey the commands of Scripture. Verse 14 explains that this is to be done with the full recognition of coming judgment. This recognition of accountability clears your vision and brings you to reality. The companion passage in James 1:22 is most instructive here. To be a hearer of the Word and not a doer is to deceive yourself. Think about what this means! Those who do not obey God’s Word are trying to live in fantasy rather than reality. For all practical purposes, they are playing an April fool’s joke on themselves. Is it any wonder that the harsh realities of life come crashing through this façade of fantasy? The “ultimate shop ‘til you drop” consumer has already told you where the pursuit of folly leads. “Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity.” Obeying God’s commands will bring you out of your fantasy world.

It’s absolutely necessary for you to conquer the pressures of this culture in your own attitudes and actions. By setting aside those empty teachings, embracing the fear of the Lord and obeying God’s commands, you will learn how to be victorious over vanity. We wish you joyous holidays as you meditate upon these Scriptures.

(Originally published in FrontLine • November/December 2004. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)

  1. Ecclesiastes 2 (unless otherwise noted, all passages cited in this article are from the book of Ecclesiastes) []
  2. Television advertisement for Rally’s hamburgers. []

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