Most people seek after what they do not possess and are thus enslaved by the very things they want to acquire. Anwar Sadat
Materialism can refer either to the simple preoccupation with the material world, as opposed to intellectual or spiritual concepts, or to the theory that physical matter is all there is. This theory is far more than a simple focus on material possessions. Materialism can also refer to a doctrine that material success and progress are the highest values in life. This doctrine appears to be prevalent in western society today.
Materialism as a philosophy is held by those who maintain that existence is explainable solely in material terms, with no accounting of spirit or consciousness. Since materialism denies all concepts of Special Creation, it relies on the Theory of Evolution to explain itself, making beliefs in materialism and evolution interdependent.
The first question this worldview should cause most of us to ask is, “If all that exists is matter only, where did the natural laws that govern it come from?” We now see much more than matter – we see the result of conscious creation.
Materialism, at its simpler level, involves the focus on material “things” as opposed to that which is spiritual or intellectual in nature. It is natural; therefore, that we may become distracted from spiritual or intellectual pursuits by material possessions, but this is frequently where problems occur. We can become obsessed by a desire to obtain them, or simply frustrated by the need to maintain them.
The questions this attitude should cause us to ask are, “Are material things really more important than anything else? Is material success the highest goal? If things are all there are, what’s life all about? Why am I here at all? If life is really just about materialism, why should I even try to live a moral life? What does it matter how I treat others or how I live, as long as I have what I want? Why does what I believe about the origin of life matter?”
C.S. Lewis (a novelist, academic, medievalist, literary critic, essayist and lay theologian. He is also known for his fiction, especially The Chronicles of Narnia) once said, “God … likes matter. He invented it.” Consider, instead, how what you choose to believe affects how you live, for as Lewis also said, “different beliefs about the universe lead to different behavior.” What we believe must either be true of false. Before settling on the position you choose, you owe it to yourself to keep seeking the truth about life, death and the universe.
What is the Bible’s conclusion on materialism? Here is one illustration. “C’mon mom, hurry he’s almost here!” It was a hot July afternoon and the ding-ding of the ice cream truck was heralding the arrival of a tasty oasis from the summer heat. My mother hurriedly dug through her purse frantically searching every pocket and zipper for nickels and dimes to fund my oasis. To a child, the nickels and dimes needed for ice cream were paramount. Oddly, that simple childhood memory is the basis for understanding the Bible’s conclusion on materialism.
There are a couple of popular misconceptions about materialism. The first is that God is in the business of bank rolling our whims. The second is that money is inherently wrong. These are contrasting, yet fundamentally similar misconceptions because both are in opposition to the Bible. Grasping the essence of the Bible’s conclusion on materialism means grasping the essence of God.
The Bible is full of stories of sacrifice and hardship. The Torah gives us the widow raising a son while enduring extreme famine (1 Kings 17:8-16). The New Testament continues with shipwreck and imprisonment. The Bible declares that God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. (Ps 50:10) God’s home, the Temple, was adorned with gold beyond imagination. How do we reconcile God’s riches with our desire to be self-gratifying?
The Bible’s conclusion on materialism is summed up by understanding that God comes first. What’s the point? The point is simple. Materialism is the act of putting ourselves first. God’s “materialism” is found in us putting God first so that God may put us first. The Bible points out that God honors those who honor God. The error that is easily committed is in thinking God is obligated to make us wealthy, give us unlimited resources, and not hold us accountable in the process. This isn’t sound reason in our own business sense and neither is it in God’s. God does indeed want us to be content and lead a fulfilled life. God does not, however, want us to loose sight of the important, which is putting others and God first. More importantly, God expects us to be good stewards of the resources God chooses to give us. The Bible’s conclusion on materialism is the message of love and selflessness. It is a message of purpose, not pride. The Bible’s conclusion on materialism is simple, “Love your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”
My prayer for you today is that you put God first, your neighbor second and know that you will get riches by giving more than by getting.
- Posted in: Uncategorized