Slaves to Convenience

As a young man, I spent a number of years driving tractor-trailers across the country.  It gave me a great opportunity to sample a cross section of American culture, see some beautiful sights, and get the wanderlust worked out of my system.  (Okay, maybe not the last part… I still have an itch to ride a motorcycle through all 50 states.)

When you’re an introspective man like I am, the benefit to all that time behind the wheel is that you can get some great thinking done.  It was on the highways of western Texas where I got my first insights into a subject that has dominated my thinking for the last twelve years – the concept that our society has become a culture of slaves to convenience.

 

In the mid to late 1940’s people started hearing about the “House of Tomorrow”.  It was a time in our nation’s history when the bulk of our population was switching from an agrarian to an industrial culture.  People were leaving the old family farms and moving to the cities.  The incredible growth in industrial and technological capability in a post-WWII environment had opened the door to a new world of innovative and stylish consumer goods.  “Rosie the Riveter” had finished her responsibilities to the war effort and was now taking care of duties back home.  Rather than forcing her to return to the old ways of washboards and wood stoves, a whole new world of low-cost, modern appliances was available that promised to free the new housewife from toil and drudgery.

As the march of time and technology progressed, we became more and more accustomed to items like the luxury automobile, the color television, air conditioning, airline travel, computers, cellular telephones, and the Internet.  In our modern day we’re surrounded by a level of technology and convenience that was the realm of science fiction novels only two generations ago.

How many of you think you could survive if it all disappeared today?

Stop and think about it.  All of the modern technology that we take for granted was supposed to make our lives “easier”.  The convenience of not having to struggle for daily sustenance was supposed to free us to pursue our own motivated self-interest.  Modern conveniences were supposed to somehow liberate us from something, but ask yourself how many people you know who would be at a complete loss without their Internet service.  How many people in America are willing to walk so much as a few blocks to go the store?  How many people in this generation consider it a source of embarrassment to not have at least 50 channels of television programming available?

We’re becoming a culture of people enslaved by the very things that were supposed to make life more convenient.

Does anyone remember how to survive without all of these things?

As I get older, I count myself as fortunate for having been homeless once before.  I mean capital “H” Homeless, too… sleeping in a homeless shelter, eating in a soup kitchen, and no possessions except for two suitcases and some clothes.  That my family continued to have food in our bellies, clothes on our backs, and a roof to sleep under every night was due solely to the providence of  God.  We had nothing.

Yet somehow, we survived it.

One of the good things that came from that experience was that I think I was weaned early on from any heavily materialistic tendency in my life.  I enjoy the conveniences of modern technology as much as the next man (you’re reading this blog, after all, and I typed it on my modern, multi-core desktop computer with flat panel monitor), but the experience of being homeless is still present in my mind and serves as a reminder of what it truly important.  You could take it all away today and I know that I would survive just fine.  (I’ll admit, though… microwave popcorn sure is handy.)

What should we value?  Should we value convenience?  Should we value things?  Is the goal of life to acquire more stuff? Jesus said:

“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things , and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:31-33, NIV)

Stuff is fine.  Convenience is fine.  But when they dominate your life and become the central focus of your pursuits, then you have a problem.  It’s easy to get lulled into being a slave to convenience; I’ve even slipped into it myself.  Be careful – God wants us to rely on Him, not on anything else.  Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.

Lord, give us eyes to see your Word, ears to hear your will, and wisdom to make the right choices.  Amen.

Now, to find where my wife put the microwave popcorn…