These words were sung by the original “Material Girl” – Madonna. Among other sordid and tawdry things, she taught an entire generation of children that living for and getting “stuff” was the sure way to find purpose, meaning and happiness in life. Forget love and honesty and integrity, to her (and multitudes of her followers) it was the one with the “cold hard cash” that was always “Mister Right.”
Well, the generation that first heard her words of worldly wisdom have finally grown up, gotten married and had children of their own. However, during the course of their coming of age, this “Material Generation” has accumulated more debt, suffered more disenchantment and depression, as well as seen more domestic destruction, than any other generation in history. It’s more than evident now to anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear that Madonna’s song was nothing more than ridiculous rhyme – not eternal truth.
Now, that those of us who were raised with the desire for more and more stuff have children of our own, and have seen the destruction that materialism brings, how can we protect them from the idea that more stuff equals more happiness? If I have struggled with the “newer is better,” “price is prestige” and “keeping up with the Joneses” my children are no doubt going to struggle with the same type of temptations. I love them and want to help and protect them, so how can I inoculate them against the virus of materialism?
Here are a few of my thoughts:
* Show them by your actions and attitude that things are not more important than people.
* Limit their exposure to commercials and content that would put the desire for more stuff in their heart.
* Keep your conversations concerning major purchases between adults. Children don’t need the added pressure of faceing or figuring out the financial strains of the family.
* Teach them that DEBT is a four-letter word.
* Show them that you can have fun and enjoyment as a family without breaking the bank.
* Teach them that something made by a friend or family member’s hands, and given from the heart, is worth more than anything with a big price tag.
* Demonstrate frugality and responsibility by recycling or giving away things no longer wanted or needed.
* Teach them that they will appreciate things more if they wait and save their money before purchasing something they want.
* Don’t buy them everything they ask for.
* Teach them that the Bible says everything on this planet will ultimately be destroyed by moths, rust or fire.
* Don’t go overboard at Christmas or birthdays.
* Be careful about saying, “Things would be great if we just had…”
* Spend time as a family volunteering your time and energy with homeless shelters, nursing homes or hospitals.
* Reinforce the lesson that happiness doesn’t come from things, and that it’s what a person is on the inside that really matters.
Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”