My View, Peter Burrows - Goods don’t bring happiness

Bishop of Doncaster, Peter Burrows.
Bishop of Doncaster, Peter Burrows.
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It’s the time of year when many celebrate harvest. It’s one of the most wonderful times, when congregations thank God for the gifts which have been given to us and the opportunities and resources made available from the around world.

We should remember however that the planet isn’t ours to do with as we want. Christians believe it’s made by God and we’re privileged to have a time here to look after and enjoy it.

The expectation is that we’ll pass it on to our children in a better condition than we found it – but we know from numerous environmental issues that unless we act to protect our planet this is not going to be the case. So harvest reminds us of the importance of sharing.

There are other lessons to be learnt from harvest.

We’re lucky that we have so much of the world’s resources, and no harvest celebration should forget the shocking conditions in many parts of the world, where people die for lack of resources which we routinely throw away. Harvest brings warnings about priorities.

It can be seen as an opportunity to glorify increasing consumption and hoarding.

But harvest is definitely not an occasion to thank God that we’ve managed to acquire masses of things. The trouble is that most of us spend too much time worrying and working for things that simply won’t last.

Jesus knew that toiling for the latest material goods brought no increase in satisfaction.

No matter how much we acquire, no matter how many material possessions, no matter how much money we have – enough is enough. What a paradox. The more we seek to be happy through acquiring such things, the less happy we seem to be!

The Christian message is that pursuit of happiness through amassing things will only ever bring ruin. It’s a curious fact that, contrary to our wealth bringing happiness, it brings impoverishment of the soul. The old saying that it’s more blessed to give than receive is so evidently true. Giving to others is something which we learn from our Lord, Jesus. He had no possessions, he gave up everything he had, and gave his life for others. It’s his model which we seek to copy.

When we think of giving and of those in greatest need, we rightly think of those in distant lands. We should give to them with a generous heart. However, we mustn’t forget those in our own town, who today will go without basic necessities.

We should be equally generous to those on our own streets, our own neighbours, but also the stranger whose immediate needs we may not know.

One day we might find ourselves, through no fault of our own, in the same situation, or it may happen to a member of our family. How would we feel then if people simply passed by revelling in their own sumptuous wealth and possessions? It’s worth thinking about.

* Peter Burrows, Bishop of Doncaster