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Materialism and Idolatry

I have to be careful. Materialistic seduction can happen. I live in America and that is clear.

If materialism was ever to satisfy anyone, it would have been Solomon, the richest king the world has ever known (that was before Jeff Bezos at Amazon). He had absolutely everything and had more of it than anyone, and yet he found it was all worthless and futile.

It did not produce happiness or the satisfaction our souls long for. He declared, “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income” (Ecclesiastes 5:10).

In the end, Solomon came to the conclusion that we are to “fear God, and keep His commandments. For this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

At its core, materialism is idolatry. We are to love God with our whole being. Chasing after stuff takes the place of God. That is a huge problem for me. I must change my mind and act differently. It isn’t okay at all in God’s country where Jesus is King.

But know this: Hard times will come in the last days. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, demeaning, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid these people. | 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (CSB)

At least eighteen different characteristics are listed here, and Paul probably could have listed more. There is an emphasis on love: “lovers of their own selves,” lovers of money (“covetous”), “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.”

The heart of every problem is a problem in the heart. God commands us to love Him supremely, and our neighbors as ourselves; but if we love ourselves supremely, we will not love God or our neighbors.

In this universe there is God, and there are people and things. We should worship God, love people, and use things. But if we start worshiping ourselves, we will ignore God and start loving things and using people. This is the formula for a miserable life; yet it characterizes many people today. The worldwide craving for things is just one evidence that people’s hearts have turned away from God.

Of course, if someone loves and worships himself, the result will be pride. “Ye shall be as gods” was Satan’s offer to Eve, and the result was that people “changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshiped and served the creature more than rather than the Creator” (Rom. 1:25).

Man became his own god! The creature is now the creator! “Boasters, proud [arrogant], blasphemers [given to contemptuous and bitter words]” (2 Tim. 3:2).

“Disobedient to parents” suggests that this apostasy reaches into the family. Children are “unthankful” and do not appreciate what their parents have done for them. They are “unholy” in their attitude toward their parents. “Honor thy father and thy mother” is not widely taught or respected.

The phrase “without natural affection” is the translation of one word that describes “family love.” The family is under attack these days, and, as go its families, so goes the nation.

In place of the natural love that God has put into men and women and families, today we have a good deal of unnatural love which God has condemned. It is confusion, and God will judge it.

Not only in homes, but out in society and the business world, the characteristics of these perilous times may be seen. “Trucebreakers” describes people who will not try to agree. They are unyielding and irreconcilable and must have their own way.

In order to defend their position, they become “slanderers” and false accusers, and try to tear down the reputations of others. Unfortunately, some of this activity goes on even among professed Christians. “Christian leaders” accuse one another in the pages of their publications.

Without self-control is the dominant culture. The motto of our society today is “Do your own thing and enjoy it!” Sad to say, some of the children born to these people do not always enjoy it because they are deformed or handicapped as the result of drugs, alcohol, or venereal diseases.

This lack of self-control reveals itself in a number of ways. “Fierce” means “untamed, brutal.” When these people cannot have their way, they become much like savage beasts. Instead of honoring what is good, they despise what is good and honor what is evil. In society today the standards of right and wrong have been twisted, if not destroyed. “Woe unto them that call evil good and good evil,” cried Isaiah the prophet.

“Traitors” describes people who betray others and cannot be trusted. Neither friendship nor partnership makes any difference to them; they lie and break their promises whenever doing so helps them get their own way.

“Heady” means “reckless, rash, acting without careful thought.” Paul did not condemn honest adventure, but foolish endeavor.

“High-minded” does not describe a person with lofty thoughts. Rather, it means a person who is “puffed up” with his importance. “Conceited” is a good synonym.

“Lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God” does not suggest that we must choose between pleasure and God; for when we live for God, we enjoy the greatest pleasures. The choice is between loving pleasure or loving God. If we love God, we will also enjoy fullness of life here and forever; but the pleasures of sin can only last for a brief time. No one can deny that we live in a pleasure-mad world; but these pleasures too often are just shallow entertainment and escape; they are not enrichment and true enjoyment.

Paul stated that these people he has just described would consider themselves religious! “Having a form of godliness” suggests an outward appearance of religion, not true faith as a disciple of Jesus; for they have never experienced the power of God in their lives. Form without force. Religion without reality.

And so, we must reject materialism. We must expose its deficiencies. We must avoid the covetous and materialistic culture we are enmeshed in. It is a trap and we lead us to death.

  • Romans 1:22–23 — 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.
  • Acts 17:16 — 16 Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols.
  • 2 Timothy 3:2 — 2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy,
  • Psalm 115:2–8 — 2 Why should the nations say, “Where, now, is their God?” 3 But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases. 4 Their idols are silver and gold, The work of man’s hands. 5 They have mouths, but they cannot speak; They have eyes, but they cannot see; 6 They have ears, but they cannot hear; They have noses, but they cannot smell; 7 They have hands, but they cannot feel; They have feet, but they cannot walk; They cannot make a sound with their throat. 8 Those who make them will become like them, Everyone who trusts in them.
  • Isaiah 44:9–11 — 9 Those who fashion a graven image are all of them futile, and their precious things are of no profit; even their own witnesses fail to see or know, so that they will be put to shame. 10 Who has fashioned a god or cast an idol to no profit? 11 Behold, all his companions will be put to shame, for the craftsmen themselves are mere men. Let them all assemble themselves, let them stand up, let them tremble, let them together be put to shame.
  • Daniel 3:1 — 1 Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, the height of which was sixty cubits and its width six cubits; he set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon.
  • Daniel 3:4–7 — 4 Then the herald loudly proclaimed: “To you the command is given, O peoples, nations and men of every language, 5 that at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe and all kinds of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up. 6 “But whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire.” 7 Therefore at that time, when all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe and all kinds of music, all the peoples, nations and men of every language fell down and worshiped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.
  • Habakkuk 2:18 — 18 “What profit is the idol when its maker has carved it, Or an image, a teacher of falsehood? For its maker trusts in his own handiwork When he fashions speechless idols.

Sources:

Christian Standard Bible. (2017). (2 Ti 3:1–5). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, pp. 249–250). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.