taking the words of Jesus seriously

The American economic system could not continue to exist without keeping us constantly dissatisfied and somewhat unhappy.  Consider the fact that if you are happy with your life; if you enjoy spending time with your children, playing with them and talking with them; if you like nature; if you enjoy sitting on your front steps; if your sexual life is relatively happy; and if you have a peaceful sense of who you are and are stabilized in your relationships; if you like solitude, enjoy praying and just like talking to people—spending time in conversation with them; if you enjoy living simply; if you have no need to compete with your friends or neighbors; you haven’t spent a nickel.

That makes you an economic liability.

Suppose more and more people were like that.  Wouldn’t the whole American economic system fall apart?  That’s why the ads on television try to convince you that you are not thin enough; your skin is not smooth enough; you don’t have the kind of car that impresses people; you lack the symbols of achievement that will make you admired—only then can the society in which we live manipulate us into buying more and more commodities to fill the emptiness of our lives; to assure others that we are successful; and create that false sense of satisfaction which the advertisers promise if we will just buy the products advertised.

Related: How Are We Political? A Dialogue between Tony Campolo & Shane Claiborne

I have heard a lot of teachers condemn the secular humanism of our world.  The truth is that secular humanism is not the primary enemy of the Church.  Instead, the enemy of the Church is consumerism.  We have made an idol out of the things that are being sold.  We bow down and worship the commodities that are paraded before us on television.  We are enslaved to a mindset that tells us that we must possess more and more because we can never have enough.  These are the things that are dragging us away from Jesus.

Our inability to enjoy life without a continual sense of craving consumer goods and being continuously satisfied with who we are and what we have is good news for economic growth and, after all, economic growth is what both political parties are preaching these days.

About The Author


Tony Campolo is Professor of Sociology at Eastern University, and was formerly on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania. For 40 years, he founded and led the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education, an organization that created and supported programs serving needy communities in the Third World as well as in “at risk” neighborhoods across North America. More recently, Dr. Campolo has provided leadership for the Red Letter Christians movement. He blogs regularly at his own website. Tony and his wife Peggy live near Philadelphia, and have two children and four grandchildren.

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