Are You Materialistic?
As Christians, we read such passages as Matthew 6:33: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness…” or Romans 12: 2: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed…” and we hear them often in sermons or may even memorize them. However, are we really applying these Scriptures? Do we live out these words from God when deciding which new car/house/clothes to purchase; or when we complain about giving to the poor when each of our children have a cellphone; or when we begrudge the preacher who asks for a raise? We tell ourselves we are denying earthly pleasures and striving to serve God first, but often, our actions speak otherwise. This is unfortunate when we as Christians are supposed to be the light in this dark world. We have let worldliness seep into the church instead of making certain the church spreads out in the world. We should be the ones living differently so that the world may know that we have been crucified with Christ, rather than us thinking, dressing and acting just like everyone else does (Galatians 2:20; 2 Corinthians 6:17-7:1). One of the major problems (if not the greatest) in the Lord’s church today is worldliness. Most of our conflicts and struggles in the body of Christ can be traced back to a materialistic mindset. What each of us as Christians thinks affects our homes, our contacts, our congregations, and ultimately, our world (Romans 8:6-7).
Being of the world manifests itself in many way as it influences every aspect of our lives - and that is just what Satan wants. The Tempter uses worldliness to gradually pull us away from God. The following are some questions with regards to materialism and worldliness that each of us need to examine (they are specific in order to get us to think):
- Do we plan vacations during our congregations’ meeting or other activities because it’s the best time/price/etc.? Or think it’s unimportant to find a local congregation to worship at on our vacation?
- Do we check and make sure our children have done their homework but seldom ask them about Bible study?
- Do we (mothers in the family) work outside the home in order to have cellphones, cable TV, cars, big house, etc. or do you work (inside and/or outside the home) to help put food and necessities on the table?
- Do we spend more time in front of the mirror than we do studying God’s Word? Which do we think about more: physical or spiritual beauty?
- Are we upset when we are late to a function such as work, a movie, etc., but it’s a normal occurrence for us to be late to worship every week?
- Do we talk with our co-workers or neighbors about everything under the sun except the salvation found in God’s Word?
- Do we ask yourself if there are ways in which you can give more (financially) to the Lord or do we justify reducing the amount given to the Lord because of a house/car/etc. payment?
- Are we concerned more about the latest fashion rather than covering up our bodies in order not to be immodest/impure in our dress or to cause others to stumble (even if we do look different from everyone else)?
- Do we watch the popular R-rated (and some PG-13) movies because everyone else is or do we avoid them to keep our minds and hearts pure?
- Do we talk to the erring brother/sister about their eternal soul or keep silent because it may cause a rift in our earthly relationship?
These questions are intended to help us evaluate ourselves (author too) and not to cast guilt upon anyone (however, if the shoe fits, wear it). However, if we find that we are living a worldly lifestyle or our minds are on this temporal earth more than on heavenly blessings, then we must repent and be converted in order to be pleasing to God and an effective Christian (Acts 8:21-24). Remember what our Lord said about the flavorless salt (Matthew 5:13).
So, how do we combat this kind of attitude? How do we live in the world but not be of the world (John 17:14-19)? We must allow the Bible to penetrate our hearts and change our lives (Hebrews 4:12-13). God’s Word stresses an importance on the attitude of believers, specifically when it comes to the possessions we own. From the beginning of the law given to Israel, God said, “You shall not covet anything that is your neighbors” (Exodus 20:17). Jesus taught that we are to “take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15). Today, under the law of Christ, we are commanded to “put to death” covetousness and “let is not be named among us” (Colossians 3:5; Ephesians 5:3; Romans 1:29). Clearly, God in His wisdom knows that humans often are controlled by their possessions instead of being the controllers. He has seen His creation through the ages over and over again put their love and trust in materials instead of in the One, True God. Therefore, we have commandments and reminders in the Word to be content with the things we have and to be like Christ, not like the world. The book of Philippians is one such example. It contains exhortations of how Christians ought to be living in this world. The inspired author, Paul, writes while in prison “that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel” (Philippians 1:12). Throughout the book, he uses the words “joy” and “rejoice” to describe Christians in whatever state we may be. The “enemies of the cross” serve their bellies and “set their mind on earthly things” (Philippians 3:18, 19) while those who are in the “book of life…rejoice in the Lord always…are anxious for nothing…and by prayers of thanksgiving have the peace of God” (Philippians 4:3-7). As Christians today, we must think on praise-worthy things, be content with what we have, and offer sacrifices of our time and money to people in need (Philippians 4:8, 11, 18). Do we have Paul’s attitude or are we upset/depressed/angry when life is not “comfortable”? Maybe the most thought-provoking passage related to this subject is 1 John 2:15-17. Throughout his book, John’s theme is the love of God; one way he describes it is by stating that love of the world is the exact opposite of love of the Father. “Do not love the world or the things in the world” - This is not a mere suggestion given us by the Holy Spirit, but a commandment. Why does God give us this commandment? He answers that for us – “the world is passing away and the lust of it”. One mindset focuses on things that are temporal and perish with the using while the other thinks about that which is life-changing and everlasting. Both attitudes cannot dwell together. It makes us think of the Lord’s words in Matthew 6:24. Are we in obedience to the One, True God or are we serving earthly wealth?
Living in this world but remaining separate from its selfishness and godlessness is difficult. However, if we train ourselves and let God mold us in accordance to His Word, we will think more about what He has done for man’s salvation and in return want to share those blessings with others - instead of thinking about what we have accomplished (or not accomplished) on this earth, comparing ourselves with others, and wanting more than we need. Then, we can say with Paul: “We do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).
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