“All the toil of man is for his mouth, yet his appetite is not satisfied. For what advantage has the wise man over the fool? And what does the poor man have who knows how to conduct himself before the living? Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the appetite: this also is vanity and a striving after wind.” Ecclesiastes 6:7-9 (esv)
I don’t like to shop. I just go ahead and drop before I shop so I don’t have to go. Every day is black Friday for me –lots of sales I don’t care about and don’t want to be within a hundred miles of. Conjure up a mental image of me shaking my cane at the world. “Ya’ Dang kids,” he shouts. But I am not really glum; I just don’t like shopping at stores. (Note: The Rabbit Room store is on-line and stocked with great gifting items. Buy, Buy, Love. In that order.)
I love to shop from the convenience of my domestic paradise. I’d rather be mauled than go to the mall –because that’s what going to the mall feels like to me. But this is very unpatriotic. After all, our economic success is based on how much people are willing to spend. Therefore –newsflash– advertising is basic in our culture. We are overwhelmed with appeals to have what others have, to be stylish and look unique and special, just like this or that celebrity.
It’s the old adage again: “Does a fish know it’s wet?” We don’t even realize to what extent our hearts have been affected by this prevailing culture of spending and spending more. We are basically being programmed for envy. The political arguments are often made between those who benefit from success and selfishness and those benefiting from the institutionalization of envy. It’s an ugly scene. And we can barely see it for all the billboards blocking our view.
This is another good reason to take the advice of C.S. Lewis about reading old books and not just ones from our own century. Because it helps us see our blind spots. And our blind spots are behind cash registers and whatever Star ‘o the Month is wearing.
So we have wisdom from Ecclesiastes. Better is the sight of the eyes than the roaming of the appetite. Look in front of you, not to the left, or right (where all your neighbor’s stuff is). This goes down deep, to the level of idolatry. If we are unhappy with our Father’s provision, and we long to have what he has provided for another man, it is a short step to wanting another Father. Another god. This is a treacherous road, but it is the highway of our culture, the route of our trade.
Gifts are grand; I love the tradition of giving and receiving we have in this season. But thankfulness for God’s provision (including future grace) is the most fundamental mark of the Christian. Likewise coveting essentially identifies the unbeliever –he rejects the provision of God. The gospel is about the provision of God for our deepest need. The Christian life is a continual leaning on that provision and loving the Father who is its loving and gracious source. Why do we covet when we have all we could ever need? Why are we thirsty when living water is in us? Flesh wars with spirit and Advent is a central front in the conflict. Here the principle combatants are clearly identified on the field and the battle is joined. Why does the periphery call to us with such potency?
The corners of our eyes are a paradise of lies. The feast is before us.
We have a Father. He is good.