“Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” – Luke 12:15 (New International Version)
“How should a Christian view materialism?”
Materialism is defined as “the preoccupation with material things rather than intellectual or spiritual things.” If a Christian is preoccupied with material things, it is definitely wrong. That is not to say we cannot have material things, but the obsession with acquiring and caring for “stuff” is a dangerous thing for the Christian, for two reasons.
First, any preoccupation, obsession or fascination with anything other than God is sinful and is displeasing to God. We are to “love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:5), which is, according to Jesus, the first and greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37-38). Therefore, God is the only one we can (and should) occupy ourselves with habitually. He alone is worthy of our complete attention, love and service. To offer these things to anything, or anyone, else is idolatry.
Second, when we concern ourselves with the material world, we are easily drawn in by the “deceitfulness of wealth” (Mark 4:19), thinking that we will be happy or fulfilled or content if only we had more of whatever it is we are chasing. This is a lie from the father of lies, Satan. He wants us to be chasing after something he knows will never satisfy us so we will be kept from pursuing that which is the only thing that can satisfy—God Himself. Luke 16:13 tells us we “cannot serve both God and money.” We must seek to be content with what we have, and materialism is the exact opposite of that contentment. It causes us to strive for more and more and more, all the while telling us that this will be the answer to all our needs and dreams. The Bible tells us that a person’s “life is not in the abundance of the things which he possesses” (Luke 12:15) and that we are to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).
Materialism, however, has nothing to do with how much money you or I have in the bank. It has little to do with whether you drive a Rolls Royce or a V8. Materialism is primarily an attitude toward money and its importance. Materialism is an attitude which attaches to money and material goods more importance than they deserve. To go one step further, materialism is primarily a matter of reversed priorities. You cannot identify a materialist by an audit, but only by exposing his attitudes.
Because materialism is more a matter of attitude than of affluence, many of us who consider ourselves to be a part of the middle class are more susceptible to this ailment than the rich. We may suppose that materialism is an undue desire for luxuries, but our Lord identifies it with undue concern over necessities, such as food and clothing- (Matthew 6:25-34). As such we are all materialists.
Since materialism (and its offspring, worry) are such a debilitating force in men’s lives, our Lord has ranked it among the leading failures in religion.
The Dangers of Money
Yet true religion with contentment is great wealth. After all, we didn’t bring anything with us when we came into the world, and we certainly cannot carry anything with us when we die. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is at the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. – 1 Timothy 6:6-10
Often times, we simply read the verses about money being the root of all evil and we call it a day. That’s what I like to call “verse of the day Christianity.” But, the Bible is not quite that simple. Whenever you read God’s Word, you must read it in its full context. As we read this verse, we can see that Paul is expressing to us the utter failure of money to give us anything. As long as we believe that money will bring us happiness, we will always be disappointed. When we love money, we learn it is an empty love. You see, money can’t love you back. It is incapable of reciprocating your love.
Loving money is expensive. It can cost you your family, precious time (as you pursue its accumulation), and of course your relationship with God. When you allow money to be your god, you find out rather quickly that it makes a poor god. It becomes a jealous god that has but one goal: to destroy anything in your life that doesn’t believe as it does. That’s not love. Jesus said: “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13 NIV). Jesus told us the two greatest commandments we can keep are love God and love others. He says nothing about loving money. Loving money interferes with our ability to love God and love others.
While hoarding money and material goods is sin, saving for future needs is not. Joseph was demonstrating spiritual wisdom and maturity when he recommended the storing up of Egypt’s grain (Genesis 41:33-36, note verse 38). The sluggard is instructed to study the ant, which prepares for the future (Proverbs 6:6ff.). The virtuous woman is commended for preparing for the future (Proverbs 31:21,25). Christians are encouraged to set money aside to minister to the needs of others (1 Corinthians 16:2). The man who fails to provide for his family has denied the faith (1 Timothy 5:8). It is not the method of saving for the future which is condemned by our Lord, but the materialistic motive.
Perhaps one of the most deceitful errors among Christians concerning money and material blessings is the false mentality that we are not to enjoy earthly pleasures. This attitude does not originate from God, but from Satan:
“But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods, which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:1-5).
As Paul later says, “God…richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.” 1 Timothy 6:17. It is only when immediate, short-term pleasures detract us from lasting pleasures that they are evil. Although money is really an insignificant thing, a matter of low priority, the way we handle this “little thing” is indicative of our faithfulness. Our proper handling of money shows us to be qualified for greater responsibilities.
“He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous in much. If therefore you have been faithful in the use of unrighteous mammon, who will entrust the true riches to you?” (Luke 16:10-11)
May God help us to be faithful in the use of money.
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