The Root of the Problem (Part 10): Materialism

The Root of the Problem: Why We Sin & How We Can Overcome

We live in a materialistic society. So apparent is this reality that I believe examples need not be given. As Christians we must be careful that we do not follow after the world in this regard. Paul gives us a sobering warning about having a materialistic attitude:

If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Timothy 6:8-10).

It is important to notice that Paul does not say that money is the root of all sorts of evil. Rather he says the love of money is the root of all sorts of evil. Hence, this warning is not exclusively for the rich. Those who are poor are often guilty of this as well. The text says, “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare.” No matter who we are, rich or poor, we must guard against this mindset.

Why is materialism such a problem? Paul tells us that it is tantamount to idolatry.

Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire and greed, which amounts to idolatry” (Colossians 3:5).

As the people of God, we are to serve Him only. Idolatry is condemned in the Old Testament because God is a “jealous God” (Exodus 20:5). The problem with serving an idol is that it takes our allegiance that should belong wholly to God and divides it between Him and some other god – which in this case is material possessions. Jesus plainly tells us, “You cannot serve God and wealth” (Matthew 6:24). We must pick a side. If we want to serve the god of wealth, we will not be able to please the Lord.

Money = Time

We have all heard the phrase, “time is money.” This is often used to express the need to make the most of one’s time and not waste it on vain pursuits. The Scriptures certainly teach us that we are to make the most of our time (Ephesians 5:16). But from a Biblical perspective, doing this will not always mean doing the things that are the most profitable financially. Yet this is the mindset that many in the world have. If we are not doing something that will help in our accumulation of wealth, we are just wasting our time.

If we begin to believe that the pursuit of riches is so important that we start to think that this is the only valuable use of our time, then our service to God will suffer. If one is materialistic, then serving God is simply not worth the time. In his mind, there is nothing profitable about it. Therefore, it is neglected.

Jesus told a parable of a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. The invitations were extended and his slaves were sent out to call those who had been invited. Yet in this parable of the wedding feast (which was told to teach a lesson about the kingdom), those who were invited were unwilling to come.

But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business” (Matthew 22:5).

These people had better things to do than attend the feast (at least in their minds they thought so). But we should note that these were not frivolous activities that were preferred to the king’s feast. They were necessary pursuits for their livelihood. Their problem was that they were only thinking in physical terms and failed to see the great value of the king’s invitation (which represents the Lord’s invitation).

Godliness is profitable. It is “a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment” (1 Timothy 6:6). But the profit of it is not the kind that our materialistic society is interested in. Paul shows us how godliness is profitable when he compares it with physical exercise:

For bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8).

We must make a choice between the things of this world and the things of God. Yes, it is still going to be necessary for us to work and earn a living in order to provide for our families, but we must not lose sight of what is truly important.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).

The materialistic mindset will lead us away from God. It is “a root of all sorts of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). As Jesus said in His explanation of the parable of the sower, having an attitude that follows after the things of this world will cause the word to be choked out, leaving us unfruitful (Luke 8:14).

How Do We Combat Materialism?

If we are to overcome the temptations and snares that come as a result of our love for money, we need to defeat materialism in our life. There are four things we can do to equip us for this fight.

First, we must remember the source of all of our blessings. Every good thing we have to enjoy comes from God (James 1:17). We need to use our blessings according to His will, not in competition with His will.

Second, we should place our trust appropriately. We must not be like those who “fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches,” but rather “on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17). Our material possessions are uncertain. God is constant. Therefore, we are able to place our trust and hope in Him.

Third, we must recognize the temporary nature of this world. John wrote, “The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17). No matter what riches we might obtain here, they are only temporary. Our time here is also short. We are “just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). When we depart from this life, whatever wealth we have amassed will remain here.

And fourth, we must lay up treasure in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21). We should not forfeit our souls for this world’s wealth. Jesus asked, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). Once our life is over, our riches are worthless. If we surrender our souls in order to pursue the material things of this life, we will be like the rich land owner – a fool – who built bigger barns to hold his great harvest while neglecting the state of his eternal soul (Luke 12:16-21).

Summary

If you continue to think like our materialistic culture, you will never overcome sin. Materialism is idolatry. Recognize God as the source of all blessings and put your trust in Him. Remember that your pursuits do not have to make money to be profitable. This world is temporary. Therefore, make heaven your goal and work to lay up your treasures there.


This material is taken from the book, The Root of the Problem: Why We Sin & How We Can Overcome, published by Gospel Armory, © 2010.


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