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Need or Greed?

Need or Greed?

One of the most sobering aspects of American life to me is the way in which yesterday’s luxuries have a way of becoming today’s necessities. Whether we are talking about microwave ovens or VCR’s or air conditioned homes and automobiles, or cellular phones, we all have experienced the changes in thought and practice that create this phenomenon. No one wants to return to the days of no air conditioning, but it does make me wonder from time to time where this spiraling life of comfort we live in is going.
A recent article in U.S. News and World Report (June 17, 1996) discussed the issue of greed in our country and the related social ills that seem to accompany it. Particularly interesting to me was a survey produced at UCLA that indicated that the percentage of college freshmen who thought it was essential to be very well off financially grew from 41% in 1968 to 74% in 1995. At the same time the need to “develop a meaningful philosophy of life” dropped from 83% to 41%. A former Harvard University president suggested that when those numbers crossed paths in the 1970’s, personal satisfaction started taking precedence over concern for other people. “Along with that came the explosion in divorce, the rise of crime and other antisocial behaviors.”
While not wanting to blame our country’s ills on microwaves and cell phones, the growing obsession with conspicuous consumption—the need to have more and bigger and better—does remind one of Jesus’ parable about tearing down old barns to build bigger ones. The Apostle Paul is still correct: the love of money is the root of all evil. Of course, I’m not caught up in that problem—all of my comfort toys really are a necessity!
John O. York

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