Monday, 16 December 2013

Value Versus Values

As the trial at Isleworth Crown Court involving the Grillo sisters’ alleged fraud of their former employers Nigella Lawson and her former husband art dealer Charles Saatchi, grinds towards its conclusion, it looks like there will be no winners. The innocence or guilt of the defendants, has been of little consequence to the media thus far. Saatchi and Lawson, mere witnesses in the legal proceedings, have been the star attractions.

Their lifestyle has been laid bare for all to see, and it is far from pretty. While most of the population has been struggling financially for years due to the recession, these two pillars of the country’s social and political elite were spending ‘eye watering’ sums of money on daily luxuries which most ordinary citizens can only dream of having. The Grillo sisters were employed to do the family’s shopping, presumably because Saatchi and Lawson were ‘too busy’!

This materialistic lifestyle is however quite common amongst the growing number of families who belong to the social and political elite. Writing recently in the Guardian, George Monbiot railed against this kind of materialism saying: “that they are crass, brash and trashy goes without saying. But there is something in the pictures posted on Rich Kids of Instagram that inspires more than the usual revulsion towards crude displays of opulence. There is a shadow in these photos – photos of a young man wearing all four of his Rolex watches, a youth posing in front of his helicopter, endless pictures of cars, yachts, shoes, mansions, swimming pools and spoilt white boys throwing gangster poses in private jets – of something worse: something that, after you have seen a few dozen, becomes disorienting, even distressing.”

According to Monbiot, there is a great deal of reliable research to suggest that materialism as it affects rich and poor is, “both socially destructive and self-destructive”. 

Materialism is defined as "a value system that is preoccupied with possessions and the social image they project". Research has found it to be associated with anxiety, depression and broken relationships. More recently, psychologists have shown that there is a definite causative relationship between materialism, lack of empathy with others, and general unhappiness.

The Bible has a lot to say about materialism. In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” In the Gospel of Luke, he spoke about ‘mammon’, the Aramaic word for ‘riches’ when he said: “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” The principle here is that wealth is a negative influence that can keep us from God.

Here’s some good advice to Ms Lawson, Mr Saatchi et al from the Apostle Paul. Writing to the young man Timothy he said: “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment”.


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