“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30)
Have you ever experienced an event or situation in your life and you felt so down and depressed that you went shopping or purchased a “big-ticket” item to help yourself feel better? Many people do this every day. It is called ‘retail therapy’.
“Retail therapy is a term in common usage that refers to the process of shopping as a way of making yourself feel better when challenged with difficult life events or emotions.” (About.com – ‘The Allure of Retail Therapy”) It may seem harmless in the short run, but over time it can result in a problematic addiction.
First, retail therapy can distance a person from others who care about him or her. Someone who consistently uses Retail Therapy often separates from other relationships and finds their comfort in shopping and purchasing items. These items become more important to them than people.
The Bible is filled with exhortations for us to love, encourage, pray for, and be devoted to one another. 2 Corinthians 13:11 says, “Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.”
Second, retail therapy can lead to excessive debt. When people are addicted to shopping or buying beyond what their budget will afford, they will often go into debt resulting in unnecessary additional stress in their lives.
Contentment is often the character quality opposite of someone in this situation. Philippians 4:11-13 says, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Paul recognized that his circumstances would always change and his hope could not be found in them. He realized that he must be grounded in Christ alone as His peace and hope.
Third, retail therapy is a form of idolatry. Idolatry is when anything is placed above Christ in importance in a person’s life. When someone goes shopping to help them cope with life’s challenges they essentially are saying to God, “You are not enough. I need to look for pleasure in things rather than You.”
Psalm 135:16-18 says, “They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see. They have ears, but cannot hear, nor is their breath in their mouths. Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.” The Psalmist here is describing an ancient idol and how those who believed in them became devoid of life, just like the inanimate objects they worshipped.
Jesus gives us the answer to retail therapy: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)