Social Issues (Part 13): Materialism

Social Issues

Materialism is about valuing physical things over spiritual things. This could be in the form of money or possessions. It is often associated with those who are rich, yet those who are poor can also be guilty of being materialistic.

Those who fall into the trap of materialism will find themselves in one of two categories: (1) they do not believe in God and, therefore, do not value the spiritual blessings and rewards He offers; or (2) they believe in God but do not recognize the danger posed by material things and how they can distract us from focusing on spiritual things. Regardless of the category in which one may be, the result is the same – a disregard of spiritual things in favor of physical things.

Facts & Statistics

In 2019, the average American had $6,194 in credit card debt, $19,231 in outstanding auto loans, and a $16,259 personal loan balance (mortgage balances would be separate from this). This is often (though not always) the result of materialistic pursuits.

In the United States, there were 22 million iPhones sold during the fourth quarter of 2017.

In 2019, Americans had a total of $1.3 trillion in auto loan debt.

Basic Bible Principles Relating to This

Every good thing in this life is a blessing from God – James wrote, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow” (James 1:17). In both the Old and New Testaments, God is credited as the source of whatever wealth one has obtained (Ecclesiastes 5:19; 1 Timothy 6:17).

The blessings of this life are only temporary – This is why Jesus said, “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). One day “the earth and its works will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10).

We are to learn contentment – Paul told the brethren in Philippi, “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need” (Philippians 4:11-12). No matter what financial circumstance in which Paul found himself, he was able to be content because he recognized that he could “do all things though [Christ] who strengthens [him]” (Philippians 4:13).

The love of money is the root of all evil – Money itself is not evil. Again, it is a blessing from God (Ecclesiastes 5:19; 1 Timothy 6:17). Yet we must guard against the “love of money” because “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” (1 Timothy 6:9-10). When obtaining money – rather than serving God – is our primary motivation, we open ourselves up to temptation for any sort of underhanded and unethical means of acquiring it.

We are to be wary of incurring debt – The wise man said, “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender’s slave” (Proverbs 22:7). This does not mean it is sinful to be in debt, but it does mean it should be avoided whenever possible. When we are enslaved to a lender, we are hindered from fully using our blessings in a way that honors God.

We are to put spiritual things first – Jesus said we are to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). Even if we could obtain all the wealth of this world, in the end it would not do us any good. 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). Suppose it were possible to obtain every earthly possession in our lifetime. What good would it do us once our lives are over? We could not use it to redeem our soul – only the blood of Christ can do that (1 Peter 1:18-19). If we have failed to take advantage of His sacrifice because we were pursuing worldly wealth, we will be left with nothing and without hope.

It is possible to lose our soul because of our attitude toward material things – Jesus’ parable of the rich land owner described one who lost his soul because he was focused only on the things of this life (Luke 12:16-21). Jesus warned, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth” (Matthew 6:24). We must not allow material things get between us and God.

Bottom Line

The material things we have in this life are blessings from God. But we must guard against materialism which puts these things in the place of God.


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