'Terrifying': Christians seduced by consumerism

Research suggests Christians are not living their lives the way God has called for

By Stephen Cauchi

December 8 2019 

Christians had been captivated by consumerism as much as the secular world, according to new research – a “terrifying” outcome, according to Christian organisation Consumed.

Consumed campaign director Gershon Nimbalker presented the findings at TEAR Australia’s Justice Conference, held in Melbourne on 15-16 November.

“Our vision of the good life in the Church has become more captivated by consumerism than it has by God,” said Mr Nimbalker. “And that is terrifying to me.”

He said the research indicated secular Australians valued happiness, health, family and friends, safety and security, financial independence, hobbies and interests, home ownership, having no regrets, travel, reputation, career and eating out at restaurants.

The Christian list was very similar, he said.

“You have to get to the 13th and 14th on the list before things like impacting your global community or impacting the world even rate a mention. ‘Living out your faith’ obviously jumps right up for the Christian cross-section but still doesn’t make it into the top five which I find interesting.”

Less than a quarter of Christians said that impacting the local community was important in “a good life”. Less than a fifth said impacting the world was important, which placed it at the same level as “being able to eat out regularly at nice restaurants”,  he said.

Mr Nimbalker said the research showed that Christians were not living their lives “the way God has called us to”.

The book of Amos – a theme of the Conference – also spoke to the consumerism worshipped by modern-day Christians, he said.

Amos condemned the Israelites for turning to idols and neglecting justice, the poor and the marginalised. “In Amos’ world the worship of idols consistently leads to poor practice, a disconnect with God and the oppression and justice of the land.”

Mr Nimbalker said that while the world of the Old Testament was filled with idols – such as Baal, Chemosh and Molech – by New Testament times there was only one god named as an idol: Mammon, or money and wealth.

“And the only idol that Paul points out is greed.

“We look at the New Testament letters and they’re all pointing to the same forms of idolatry.

“In terms of the gods today that captivate our attention, I don’t hear too much about Baal or Molech. We’re captivated by greed. We’re captivated by Mammon, the god of riches and wealth.”

The irony was, said Mr Nimbalker, that although we were continually getting richer, we were not more satisfied with life.

“In fact, in the research that we did, it suggested that the more we consume the more negative the impacts are,” he said.

“If you consume more, and feel the need to consume more, you’re more likely to be stressed, frustrated, anxious, sad and lonely.”

But the research showed if you had a sense of purpose and meaning, “the impacts of this are far more muted”.

The Consumed research “keeps pointing to truth that we already know,” said Mr Nimbalker.

“If we can turn our lives to God and genuinely follow Him, we will be more content, we will have a bigger impact on the world, people will be drawn to us more, our witness will be deeper and better and richer.”

The research was based on a survey of 1200 Australians in June, including 400 Christians.

The Justice Conference was held at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. See