What is the Bible's conclusion on materialism?
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 Himself.
The Bible is full of stories of sacrifice and hardship. The Old Testament 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 when Jesus said, “Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). What’s the point? The point is simple. Materialism is the act of putting ourselves first. God’s “materialism” is found in us putting Him first so that He may put us first. The Bible points out that God honors those who honor Him. Christ put it another way when He said, "So the last will be first, and the first will be last" (Matthew 20:16). Jesus continually drew analogies of the Good Shepherd guarding and providing for His sheep that were in His fold.
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. He does not, however, want us to loose sight of the important, which is putting others and Himself first. More importantly, God expects us to be good stewards of the resources He does give us. The Bible’s conclusion on materialism is stated clearly on the cross. It is a message of love, not greed. It is a message of purpose, not pride. The Bible’s conclusion on materialism is simple, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind' and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). A little boy may love his ice cream on a hot summer day, but he loves his mother more.
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