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How do we combat the culture of materialism we live in?

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Greed is very insidious. It creeps into my life, and I don’t recognize it at all some days. I have grown up in a materialistic culture. Who knows how many commercials I have seen touting things I should want? I am told I need them.

Do I? Do I need them? Will they really help me?

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.

 English Standard Version. (2016). (Lk 12:13–15). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

What does Jesus think?

Jesus knows what he is talking about. Just ask the rich young ruler. Materialism, greed and covetousness are huge issues of the heart. Jesus has a goal for us. We need to be very, very careful to protect myself against the least bit of greed.

What defines our life?

Being a child of God is the main thing. We are to do God’s will and carry out His desires every day. That needs to be our focus.

Is Jesus clear on all of this?

Yes, on occasion after occasion, Jesus drives the point home. Here is a complete list of everything Jesus had to say about the homeless, wealth, prosperity, poverty, riches, the poor, the needy and giving. It is instructive to read all in one place.

Here are just a couple:

  • Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” Matthew 6:19 (NASB)
  • “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? “And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ “For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.” | Matthew 6:25–32 (NASB)
  • “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” Luke 12:20–21 (NASB)

Digging Deeper – What is materialism?

Materialism is the outlook on life which treats material possessions as being of supreme importance or which denies the spiritual aspects of life. Scripture notes the dangers of material wealth and possessions. The accumulation of wealth can easily become a god in itself and lead people astray from the worship of the true God. Yet it is not money itself, but the love of money, which is seen by Scripture as a fundamental cause of evil.[1]

The attitude to life that places particular emphasis on immediate, physical values rather than on future, spiritual ones or that regards the material world as the only reality.

The pursuit of possessions and wealth and a preoccupation with physical things is futile and dissatisfying. [2]

Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary

Scripture warns against valuing one’s wealth too highly. Riches can prevent one from bearing spiritual fruit (cp. Luke 8:14). Perhaps awareness of this lies behind Agur’s plea that he not be given riches lest he deny God (Prov. 30:8–9). That riches can hinder spiritual growth receives eloquent expression from Jesus: “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (Matt. 19:24 HCSB). Elsewhere Jesus warns against splitting one’s allegiance: “No one can be a slave of two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot be slaves of God and of money” (Matt. 6:24 HCSB). Moreover, as Paul tells Timothy, the love of money has led to many evils—even leading some to wander from the faith (1 Tim. 6:10). So, then, one ought to be content with one’s possessions and seek righteousness rather than wealth (Matt. 6:33; Luke 12:15–21; Heb. 13:5).

A generous spirit accompanies righteousness. Zacchaeus responds to Jesus not only by restoring fourfold what he had gained dishonestly, but also by giving freely to the poor (Luke 19:8), and the members of the church in Jerusalem shared their possessions with one another (Acts 2:44–45; 4:32–35). Such generosity characterizes those who have been freed from the love of money and have sought to store up for themselves treasure in heaven rather than on earth (Matt 6:19–21).[3]

[1] Manser, M. H. (2009). Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies. London: Martin Manser.

[2] Manser, M. H. (2009). Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies. London: Martin Manser.

[3] Blount, D. (2003). Wealth and Materialism. In C. Brand, C. Draper, A. England, S. Bond, E. R. Clendenen, & T. C. Butler (Eds.), Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (p. 1662). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.


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