We bought a TV. There, I said it. I have confessed our indulgence. We are conspicuous consumers just like everyone else. For the first six or so months of our marriage we did not even own a television. Amy’s grandmother gave us her old set, complete with knobs that changed all thirteen channels! Back then we did not have cable, just an antenna on the roof. I discovered that if I climbed up on the roof and carefully turned the antenna I could pick up most of the channels on the knob. That television was old when it was given to us and it lasted for ten or more years. Lightening finally took it out, which brought joy to my life. Finally we can buy a television with a remote control!
We bought this current one not because we wanted the latest model, but, quite frankly, our old set was getting smaller and smaller. Actually, our eyes are getting weaker and weaker. For the last year or so we would take turns getting up from the sofa and walk to the set in order to read the score of the ball game or the scroll announcing weather alerts. I argued that we did not need a bigger TV, we just needed “his and hers” binoculars. “It would be like going to the opera,” I said. Amy reminded me that she hates the opera. So last week we upgraded from a 30 inch screen to a 40 inch one!
We discovered with our new television that a lot has changed over the years in regards to television technology. For starters, there is color. Okay, I am joking with that last line. Still, it feels to us like we have entered a whole different generation. It is a High-Definition TV, although we do not have high definition cable, so outside of size I am unclear of its benefits. It is also called a “Smart TV” which is another way for manufacturers to say, “If you are over 40 you are not going to understand it.” It is a good thing I work with several young ministers who are both High Definition and Smart!
We did not need a new television. In the end, we wanted one. And when you want something bad enough, you often find a way to get it. Somehow I do not seem to have enough money to pay three more cents per gallon for gas, or buy name-brand yogurt in the grocery story, but I can spare a little extra for the convenience of more screen size in our living room. We have all been there in one form or another.
Do your wants ever get ahead of your needs? I suspect that for many of us we have so thoroughly blended our wants and needs that we have a hard time distinguishing between the two.
Psychologist Abraham Maslow developed a list (a pyramid actually) called a hierarchy of needs. We need air to breath, food to eat, and shelter to protect. We also need friends to love, confidence to inspire and morality to organize.
Part of the role of the faith community is to help us sort through our wants so that we can more clearly understand what it is we really need. We want comforts and conveniences, but what we need is trust and faith. We want assurances and personal gain, but what we need is a greater capacity to love and serve. We want to feel better but what we need is to do better.
The faith journey is a pilgrimage of sorting between wants and needs. In Luke 18 Jesus is approached by a blind man and Jesus asks the question: “What do you want me to do for you?” The man responded, “Lord, let me see again.” (v. 42)
Not a bad prayer for those of us whose eyes have been clouded to the point we are not sure what to look for in life. May Christ open our eyes that we may see what is most needed in our lives and on this good earth.