No, Mama, Money Can’t Buy My Love

No, Mama, Money Can’t Buy My Love

dad and son playing chessElise Ellsworth

Christian preacher and theologian Peter Marshall once counseled a couple whose family was being ripped apart by excessive materialism – “What good is a beautiful house,” he asked, “filled with expensive furniture, if there isn’t any love between those who live inside the house? What good are expensive clothes and beautiful adornment if there aren’t love, contentment, and happiness in the hearts of the people wearing the clothes?” (A Man Called Peter, 143). These are questions worthy of our consideration in today’s increasingly materialistic world.

The modern quest for more and better stuff has taken a toll on the family. Studies show that materialism is harmful to happiness, to marriages and to children. Of course, a certain amount of material things are necessary to our physical and spiritual wellbeing. And there are some very good parents – my own included – who have been blessed materially. However, the addictive covetousness of “keeping up with the Joneses” has caused many adults to work longer hours and to spend more time in consumption activities. In the process, they have neglected their families. Name brand clothing, fancy cars, restaurant food, expensive furnishings and electronic gadgets are poor substitutes for eating, talking, listening, recreating, learning, laughing and playing with our children.

One example of a place where this destructive cycle of consumption has taken its toll is the country of Great Britain. In 2007, a UNICEF survey of child welfare ranked Great Britain at the bottom of industrialized countries.

The study found that British children were two times more likely to have been drunk by the age of fifteen and significantly less likely to be in two parent families than children elsewhere. They were also more likely to have tried drugs and had one of the worst diets in the developed world.

A follow up survey in 2011 found that British parents were failing in large part because of obsessive materialism. They spent long hours away from home in the quest to provide more material goods for their family. Meanwhile, their children were being raised by poor parental substitutes – including television and digital media.

The author of the 2011 study, Agnes Nairn, discovered that: “While children would prefer time with their parents to heaps of consumer goods, [their] parents seem to find themselves under tremendous pressure to purchase a surfeit of material goods for their children.” This pressure left parents “too tired” for time together with their families.

The British are not the only ones trapped by compulsive materialism. Many of us in today’s world have fallen prey to the false notion that buying more things will increase our happiness. Have all these things that we are seeking bought us anything but a hollow empty place in our souls? We cannot buy true friendship. We cannot buy love.

What are some nonmaterial things that we can give our children and families? Here are some ideas from a list compiled by veteran teacher Erin Kurt, who asked students in classrooms across the world what they appreciated about their parents: “Tuck your children in at bedtime. Sing them a song. Hug and kiss them. Tell them that you love them. Talk with them privately. Discipline your children. Leave special messages on their pillows or in their lunch bag.” Your time will mean far more to them than anything you can buy. And it won’t cost you a dollar.

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