David Hegg | Some Bumper Stickers Lie

David Hegg

By David Hegg

We’ve all seen it. I saw it again just this week on the backside of a huge pickup that had been lifted to accommodate oversized wheels. 

The bumper sticker read, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” 

Being a bit of a social anthropologist I immediately started thinking about the worldview that it was promoting. Apparently, the owner of the truck considered life to be primarily about gaining enough wealth to purchase toys, and the more the better. Such a worldview would focus primarily on wealth and self, with the goal being accumulation of those things that wealth could provide for self. All in all, it boasts a very self-centered life, and not one you would expect anyone to be bragging about if they really stopped to think it through. 

But there are even more distressing components in this worldview. The fact that no amount of toys can prevent death seems to be admitted. As well, if winning is based on the number of toys we have when we die, such a victory must be quite hollow given that we won’t be around to enjoy either the victory or the toys any longer. Maybe it should read, “The kids whose parents die with the most toys win!” 

Imagine the natural effects of this worldview. With its preoccupation on the personal collection of toys, it sees others, not as neighbors, but as competitors. If the accumulation of wealth and toys is really the goal of life, then competition rather than cooperation will be the norm. If personal pleasure is the ultimate goal then societal welfare will have to take a back seat. 

Further, anything that might demand personal sacrifice of resources or time would be looked at as a waste of time. After all, if the goal of life is to get more and more stuff in order to show everyone else that I have more toys than they do, then there is no way I’m going to work against myself by giving away either my resources or my time. Charity smarity! I need to buy another toy. 

Unfortunately, this bumper sticker’s ethical stance is more prevalent than we think. We might be the most consumer-driven society of all time. Our kids learn at a very early age that the girl with the most designer labels is the coolest; the boy who skates with the best brands is the hottest. They are all getting a running start on their accumulation of toys. And it is no wonder since we, their parents, have been collecting our own stockpile for quite some time. 

But there is an even more distressing aspect of this worldview. It says nothing about the possibility that this life is not all there is. It essentially dismisses the possibility of life after death by directing all our energies to the gathering of toys as badges of success in this one. Such a position is really quite detrimental if you consider that this assumes there is no god, no heaven, no ultimate accountability for the way we live this life. All that matters, according to this worldview, is whether we can collect more toys than the next guy. 

And most of all, the bumper sticker leaves us with an unsettling question: Who decided that the one with the most toys wins, and can he or she be trusted? What if it is a cruel fantasy, and life is supposed to be lived, not for self, but for others? What if there really is a God? 

As I watched the huge pickup drive away I couldn’t help but do a little editing in my mind: He who dies with the most toys … still dies. And that’s when we’d better be ready. Our best option is to find a consistent worldview that does several things: It should bring out the best in us in this life, as well as bring benefit to our neighbors and our society. It should also prepare us to be in the best place if there does turn out to be a God who will render his judgment on our lives in the next life. 

I’ve found a worldview that answers my questions and provides satisfaction and purpose in this life and the next. I only hope that you’re looking in the right place for yours.  

Local resident David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church. “Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays. 

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