Original Research - Special Collection: Practical Theology

The simple living of Leo Tolstoy and the slippery slope of consumerism in a context of poverty: A pastoral guide

Noah K. Tenai
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 72, No 2 | a3408 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v72i2.3408 | © 2016 Noah K. Tenai | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 14 March 2016 | Published: 16 September 2016

About the author(s)

Noah K. Tenai, Faculty of Humanities, School of Basic Sciences, North-West University, South Africa


The nature of consumerism, which manifests in the belief that excessive accumulation of material goods represents a fuller and more meaningful life, is a growing global phenomenon, and has an effect on both the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’. In addition, poverty levels globally and in Kenya in particular, remain unacceptably high. The situation of poverty in Kenya is partly worsened by the trapping effects of consumerism. The life of a wealthy and prosperous writer, Leo Tolstoy, who succumbed to depression in spite of his fame and material wealth, is examined with a view to establish how he overcame his depression and found meaning in life. The lessons he learnt from turning to a study of the peasantry are extrapolated and proposed for the churches’ response to the challenge of consumerism in contexts of poverty.


Consumerism; Poverty; Leo Tolstoy; Churches


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