Danger of trying to maintain our standard of living

Southern Cross: People Matter

People Matter was a regular column by Phillip Jensen in Southern Cross, the monthly magazine of the Anglican Diocese of Sydney.

Originally Published:
Jensen, P 'Danger of trying to maintain our standard of living'. Southern Cross, March 2002.

Tagged: divorce family materialism

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It was divorce that changed her life. Susan was comfortably well off with her husband and two children. They had investments and he was well paid. They had the children in ‘good’ schools. They had a nice house, a dog, two cars—the great Australian dream come true.

But then her husband left her for another woman. It seemed so quick and so final.

Left in crisis, with the house, the bills, the kids and the responsibilities, she turned to God. Susan had ‘not needed’ God since she was a child. Life had come easy to her and success in education, work, marriage and parenting were assumed. Now suddenly everything was falling apart. To whom could she turn?

Since teenage days Susan knew the truth was to be found in Jesus. She had just been too wilful, selfish and busy for God. Now there was nowhere else to go except back to square one, the basis of all—back to God.

Over the next few months of agony Susan gradually put her life, her self-esteem, her children and her home back together again—this time with God at the base and Christ as the head of the household. Or so it seemed.

After some time Susan chose to seek employment in the workforce. It was not an immoral choice. Work is a good thing. Taking economic responsibility for your family is right and proper.

Susan's work required retraining and by retraining she acquired qualifications. Qualifications led to more responsible work and the need for still higher qualifications leading to more significant employment and yet more responsibility. ‘Taking economic responsibility for the family’ became lost in the heady whirl of success and significance.

Was her choice really about taking responsibility for the family? Even after the divorce Susan had sufficient means to live comfortably. Her choice was between lowering her standard of living or going back to work. The hard choice between having the things we feel are important to our well-being and doing without things for the sake of time and energy for relationships and caring.

Susan's life slowly fell apart again—for there was no time for God or God's people, no time for friends and neighbours, no time even for herself and her own needs, no time for the children and their activities. As the children had been left by one irresponsible parent, they were now being left by the other overly responsible parent.

It's a sad story of unfortunate choices, encouraged and promoted by our materialistic society. Susan knows the truth, and wants to live by the truth, but she suffers the dysfunctionality of living by lies. The seductive and coercive power of the materialistic lifestyle together with current work place practices has slowly choked out the word of God from her life, ‘choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures’ (Luke 8:14).

Sadly, this woman who has been so wronged by her husband has also watched her unhappy, troubled children desert her to her lonely affluence.